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Monday, 29 July 2002
Ian Stanley sets out on his second title defence in the space of two weeks when he tees up in the De Vere Carden Park PGA Seniors Championship over the acclaimed Jack Nicklaus course at the De Vere Carden Park.

The 53 year old from Melbourne also hopes to go one better than two of his boyhood heroes, Kel Nagle and Peter Thomson, by retaining a title that was first contested back in 1957.

Stanley was in commanding form when he won the De Vere Carden Park PGA Seniors title 12 months ago. He opened with a one under par 71 and then added a 66 and a 68 before claiming the €55,191 (£33,320) first prize with a solid 73 in blustery conditions.

The Australian posted a ten under par aggregate of 278 to finish two shots ahead of battling Englishman, Maurice Bembridge, and six in front of New Zealand's Barry Vivian.

"It was a great honour for me to win this title," said the Australian who also won the Senior British Open, presented by MasterCard, to finish as Number One on the Seniors Tour Order of Merit with a record €287,025 (£177,478).

"I've always believed it to be one of the Senior majors and it is particularly special to win it because it means that I have now followed in the footsteps of two of my greatest idols, Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle.

"To be honest, I can't tell you how I feel at the moment. It's very special. For a while out there, I seemed to be cruising but then, when I got to six in front after the fifth, I might have become a little bit too negative and that let Maurice back in.

"But all credit to him," he added. "He did a great job battling back the way he did and he ought to be congratulated for that."

Stanley joins an illustrious roll of honour that was started when England's Jack Burton won the first Seniors PGA Championship at Fulwell back in 1986. Norman Sutton went on to win the second championship at Copt Heath twelve months later and he was succeeded by an illustrious list of champions that includes Arthur Lees (1959), Dai Rees (1966), Max Faulkner (1968 and '70), John Panton (1969), Kel Nagle (1971 and '75), Christy O'Connor (1976, ,77, '79, '81, '82, '83), Neil Coles (1985, '86, '87, '89), Peter Thomson (1988), Brian Waites (1990 and '91), Tommy Horton (1992 and '98), Brian Huggett (1993) and John Morgan (1994 and '95).

This championship has a habit of producing successful defending champions but to repeat his success Stanley will have to overcome a strong field that is headed by double Major Champion Tony Jacklin and also includes England's Neil Coles and Denis Durnian, Japan's Seiji Ebihara, Scotland's Bernard Gallacher and America's Steve Stull.

Jacklin has produced some fine performances on this season's Seniors Tour including a tie for fourth at the lucrative Wales Seniors Open at Royal St David's but his first win still remains tantalisingly out of his reach.

The same cannot be said for Gallacher who ended an 18-year wait for a major victory when he captured The Mobile Cup at the Stoke Park Club in Buckinghamshire.

In the end Gallacher's win was worth the wait because he closed with a splendid five under par 66 that included an inward half of 31. The former Ryder Cup captain ended the tournament with a twelve under par aggregate of 201 that put him four shots ahead of Jamaica's Delroy Cambridge and five in front of John Morgan. It also boosted his confidence at a time when he was starting to wonder if he would ever achieve another win.

"I felt that a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders when the final putt went in at Stoke Park," admitted Gallacher who played in eight Ryder Cups and then experienced the agony and ecstasy that comes with captaining the team three times.

"I have waited a long time for this win. Deep down, I suppose, I expected to win fairly soon after I turned 50 so I started to worry when it didn't happen."

"The longer it went on, the worse it got. Recently, there were times when I started to wonder if I would ever win but, now that it has happened, I can relax a bit and get on with things. The monkey is off my back."

Gallacher tees up at the De Vere Carden Park alongside six previous winners on this year's Seniors Tour. Peter Townsend, the winner of the Royal Westmoreland Barbados Open, Steve Stull (Tobago Plantations Seniors Classic), Seiji Ebihara (AIB Irish Seniors Open and Wales Seniors Open), Gary Wintz (Flanders Nippon presents Legends in Golf), Delroy Cambridge (Microlease Jersey Seniors Masters), and Neil Coles (Lawrence Batley Seniors Open) are also competing.



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