Sunday, 06 July 2003
Scotland's Bill Longmuir closed with a four under par 65 to claim his first Seniors Tour title at the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open at Royal St David's and then thanked former Open champion, Greg Norman, for playing a large part in his triumph.

Longmuir spent three months last winter practising at Norman's home in Florida and all the hard work paid off when he made up a four shot overnight deficit to finish three shots clear of America's David Oakley on eight under par 199.

The victory was worth £75,000 and took rookie Longmuir to the top of the Seniors Tour Order of Merit.

"Greg has been a friend of mine since back in the 1970s when we played the European Tour together and when he heard I was looking for somewhere warm to practice he invited me to come over and stay with him," he said.

"It was very good of him and I have no doubt all the practice did me a lot of good. Last week, he called me to ask where I thought he should moor his new boat when he comes over to Britain this summer. He also gave me a bit of stick for not winning on one of my first two starts. Now he’s going to have to eat his words."

Longmuir started the final round four shots behind Guillermo Encina but grabbed his chance when the Chilean struggled to a two over par 73. He made his first move when he birdied the 376 yard second but then dropped a shot on the sixth before moving to the top of the leaderboard with further birdies at the seventh, eighth and tenth.

In the end, he sealed his victory when he hit a glorious six iron to within five feet of the hole on the 202 yard par three 18th hole to set up the winning birdie.

"That has got to be one of the best shots I have ever hit in my life," said the Scot, who won six times in Africa but never tasted success on the European Tour.

"I thought at the time that David and I were tied for the lead so I knew I needed a good one. For a while I thought it was going to drop into the hole.

As it happened, Oakley bogeyed both of the last two holes to card a 70 but still finished second, one shot clear of Encina . Alan Tapie carded a two under par 67 to finish fourth on 204 while England's Jim Rhodes closed with a level par 69 to claim fifth place.

English rookie, Carl Mason, ended his first Seniors Tour event in some style, closing with a fine three under par 66 to share sixth place alongside Italy's Guiseppi Cali and America's John Grace on one under par 206.

Mason, a former Scottish Open and Turespana Masters champion, made his score with five birdies over his opening nine holes. Turning into the wind, he dropped shots at the tenth, 13th and 15th but then bounced back with his sixth birdie of the day on the 354 yard par four 16th hole.

"It all got a bit exciting out there for a while," said Mason, whose week starting in calamitous fashion when his wife, Beryl, fell and broke her ankle while he was playing his first practice round. "I thoroughly enjoyed it out there today. It's great to be back competing again after such a long time."

It also turned out to be a good day for the other Seniors Tour debutant, Ireland's Des Smyth, who arrived in Wales having won over $550,000 in his first 13 starts on the Seniors Tour in the States. Smyth, a winner of eight European Tour titles, started his final round by dropping shots at the first and the fifth but recovered with birdies on the sixth, seventh and 13th. He shed another shot on the 14th before posting a 69 that saw him finish in a share of tenth place alongside Bob Charles, Neil Coles John Chillas, Eamonn Darcy, Baldovino Dassu, Dragon Taki and Barry Vivian. Coles and Charles also shared the Hardys Wines Super Seniors prize awarded to the leading competitor aged 60 or over.

"It was one of those weeks when things didn't quite work out, said the 50 year old from Drogheda. "I hit some pretty good shots this week but a couple of bad one as well.

"But it has been great to be here," he added. "I love playing links golf but don't get enough chance to play it enough. That's why I'm looking forward so much to the Senior British Open at Turnberry in a couple of weeks time."

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