With 11 successful seasons already behind it, the European Seniors Tour has announced its schedule for the year with every reason to believe that 2003 will provide the Tour with its own version of the ‘Glorious 12th.’
At this early stage, the schedule features 17 tournaments spanning the globe but, as always, discussions are ongoing in an attempt to attract new sponsors to further tournaments which will be announced in the near future.
One of the highlights of the year will undoubtedly be the third staging of the Charles Church Scottish Seniors Open over the idyllic Roxburghe course in the rolling Scottish borders on August 29-31.
Last year Denis Durnian crowned his “most enjoyable week on Tour,” at his “favourite venue of the year,” with an emphatic six stroke victory but the amiable Englishman will face stiff competition from a strong home cast this year aiming to keep the title north of the border.
Joining established stars such as John Chillas, Bernard Gallacher, David Huish, Mike Miller and Russell Weir, will be new Seniors such as David Chillas, Mike Gallagher, Bill Longmuir and Craig Maltman, not forgetting, of course, that the event begins five days after the 50th birthday of last year’s Ryder Cup Captain, Sam Torrance.
As in previous years, the season will get underway in the Caribbean but with the added interest this year of a new tournament, the Digicell Jamaican Seniors at the Half Moon Golf, Tennis and Beach Club in Jamaica from March 21-23.
The new event will kick off an extended ‘Caribbean Swing’, which will go on to feature the fourth staging of the Royal Westmoreland Barbados Open on March 27-29 and the second playing of the Tobago Plantations Seniors Classic on April 3-5.
The Digicell Jamaican Seniors will offer a prize fund of US $250,000, bringing the total value of the ‘Caribbean Swing’ to around US $650,000, an added bonus to the warmth and sunshine enjoyed in that idyllic part of the world and the perfect start in the race for the 2003 Order of Merit.
While established tournaments are the bedrock of any Tour, it is always pleasing to announce new events and on that score, the European Seniors Tour is delighted to add three more to the 2003 schedule.
The first one of these, the Wallonia Open, will be staged at the Pierpont Golf Club to the south of Brussels from May 23-25 before moving from Belgium back to England for the Nigel Mansell Classic at Woodbury Park in Devon on August 22-24, where the former Formula One World Motor Racing and World Indycar Champion will play host, and the Merseyside English Seniors Open at Hillside Golf Club on September 26-28.
As well as new tournaments, it is always exciting to visit new venues and top of the list this year on that score is the magnificent Westin Turnberry Resort in Scotland, which will play host to the Senior British Open on July 24-27.
It represents a return ‘home’ for the tournament which was staged there for its first four years from 1987 to 1990. The Turnberry winners represent a Who’s Who of Golf, in Bob Charles, Neil Coles and Gary Player (twice) and it is hoped that the return to the famous Open venue will herald another memorable Championship this summer.
Unquestionably the Senior British Open will be the fulcrum of the season being, as it is for the first time, incorporated into the US Champions Tour and officially recognised as a ‘Senior Major’.
Being a joint sanctioned event, prize money won will count on both Tours and, after years of discussion between the European Seniors Tour and the US PGA Tour, this represents a major ambition realised.
It is also worth noting that the restructuring of the schedule has enabled the European Seniors Tour not to clash with two other Senior Majors in America this year, the US PGA Seniors Championship at Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania on June 5-8 and the US Senior Open at the Inverness Club in Ohio on June 26-29.
Finally, one delightful aspect of the European Seniors Tour is the welcoming of new faces onto the circuit. Last year saw players of the calibre of Eamonn Darcy and Manuel Piñero turn 50, while the first person to reach that milestone this year will be Des Smyth in February.
Congratulations must already go to Des for his notable achievement of winning last season’s US Champions Tour Qualifying School, which will enable the amiable Irishman to play on both Tours this year. He will be joined in Europe later in the year by players such as Baldovino Dassu, Jeff Hawkes, Carl Mason, Bill Longmuir and, as mentioned earlier, Sam Torrance.
Andy Stubbs, Managing Director of the European Seniors Tour, said: “Glancing down the schedule, we see another season full of exciting and varied playing opportunities for our Members throughout the world, further emphasising the growing globalisation of our game.”