Gary Wintz makes an emotional return to Belgium when he tees up in this week's Wallonia Open at Golf Club de Pierpont.
Twelve months ago, Wintz, making just his third appearance on the Seniors Tour, became the third first time winner of the 2002 season when he posted rounds of 68, 68 and 69 to win the Legends in Golf tournament at Flanders Nippon Golf Club, near Hasselt.
Wintz, from Pouce Inlet, Florida, struggled during his first two Seniors Tour appearances, at the Tobago Plantations Seniors Classic and the AIB Irish Seniors Open, but then transformed his fortunes by overhauling experienced Englishman Nick Job coming down the stretch.
The American stepped onto the last tee one shot behind Job but then belied his inexperience by hitting a drive and a nine iron to three feet to set up a birdie. Meanwhile, Job missed the green in two and then lost the chance to claim the €25,500 first prize when he failed to get up and down.
This year, both Wintz and Job will start out among the favourites at a new Seniors Tour venue, situated in rolling landscape 25 kilometres south of Brussels, the Belgian capital, and only ten minutes from Charleroi (Brussels South Airport).
This year's tournament, offering a prize purse totalling €160,000, has attracted a top quality field, including Jamaica's Delroy Cambridge and England's Denis Durnian who, between them, won five times during last season's Seniors Tour.
It is no exaggeration to suggest that 52 year old Durnian has been the Seniors Tour's most consistent performer for the last two seasons. During 2001, his first full year on the Tour, he won once, at the Wales Seniors Open on his way to finishing second on the Order of Merit. Last year, he also ended the season as runner up on the money list, winning twice at the Charles Church Scottish Seniors Open and the Estoril Seniors Tour Championship.
Cambridge, a 53 year old Jamaican who is now based in Orlando, Florida, went one better, winning no less than three titles at the Microlease Jersey Seniors Masters, the Bovis Lend Lease Senior Masters and the Daily Telegraph/Sodexho Seniors Match Play Championship. That helped him to finish third on the Order of Merit with earnings of €177,872.
Cambridge and Durnian have both made promising starts to the 2003 season but the man both they, and the rest of the field, will have to beat is Australia's Terry Gale who has made a sensational start to his 2003 campaign.
Gale started out with a tie for sixth place at the Digicel Jamaica Classic, in association with Sony Ericsson, and then recorded successive victories at the Royal Westmoreland Barbados Open and the Tobago Plantations Seniors Classic. Last week, he finished ** at the AIB Irish Seniors Open at Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort, taking his earnings for the season to **.
This year's tournament venue was designed by Dudok Van Heel, the former Dutch Amateur champion, who represented The Netherlands between 1946 and 1971. Opened in 1991, it measures 6,232 metres.