Seiji Ebihara earned praise and the nickname ‘Houdini’ from Nigel Mansell after the Japanese golfer won the former Formula One World Champion’s tournament.
Ebihara claimed the Nigel Mansell Sunseeker International Classic at Woodbury Park after firing a bogey free six under par 66 to finish two strokes ahead of American David Oakley. Oakley, who also finished second last week in Wales, closed with a 68.
Englishmen Carl Mason and Tommy Horton tied for third four adrift of the winner.
With a series of brilliant recovery shots Ebihara claimed his first title on the European Seniors Tour in over 18 months. He won three times in 2002 en route to claiming the Order of Merit title before embarking on an unsuccessful season on the US Champions Tour.
“It was wonderful playing here. The beautiful scenery inspired me. I have really enjoyed my golf since coming back to the European Seniors Tour and I am so happy to have won again,” said Ebihara, who finished with a three round total of 13 under par.
Mansell, who closed with a 76 to finish in 62nd place, said: “I walked the last four holes and I have to say it was a pleasure to watch our new champion Seiji ‘Houdini’ Ebihara play.”
Ebihara led the whole day but hit some wayward shots over the closing holes. On the par five 16th his tee shot hit some trees and only moved 100 yards. He played into the fairway and then hit a superb long iron to six feet to make birdie. On the following hole he found trouble again from the tee and had to take a drop from some rough. He then nailed another iron shot to three feet to save par.
The Japanese golfer won €33,346 (£22,500) for his sixth Seniors Tour title, as he also won twice in 2001.
Mason, a two time winner this year, returned a 70 to stay in second position on the Order of Merit list behind American Ray Carrasco.
The Englishman has been struggling with a back injury for three weeks but was able to produce his best finish since winning the AIB Irish Seniors Open last month.
“The result was quite good but I did not play very good. I finished third playing badly so I mustn’t complain. My back is still bothering me,” said Mason.
The Nigel Mansell Sunseeker International also marked a return to form for the Senior Tour’s most successful golfer Horton. The 63 year old came in with his third successive 69.
“The more it went on the more I enjoyed it. I worked on a few things at the start of the week and felt things were getting better,” said Horton, who has won the Order of Merit title a record five times.
The Englishman picked up the Hardys Super Seniors Prize, worth €1,500, which goes to the leading player aged over 60.
Defending champion Mike Miller from Scotland took sole possession of fifth place after firing a 69.
“I seem to play well around for whatever reason. I had a bit of a disaster today, I took seven on the second because I had a big bit of mud on my ball but I managed to fight back and shoot three under,” said Miller.
“I seem to be stroking the ball well with the putter and playing not badly. I am hitting enough good shots to make birdie chances,” added the Scotsman.