Sam Torrance has long been golfing royalty in Scotland but he will be joined by some real nobility in the shape of the Duke of Roxburghe for the Charles Church Scottish Seniors Open, which starts on Friday at The Roxburghe Hotel & Golf Course, Kelso.
Sir Guy David Innes Ker, the tenth Duke of Roxburghe, has hosted this tournament over his own course since 2001 but this year he is taking the bold move of playing himself, after receiving special permission from the European Seniors Tour.
As a four-handicap amateur he admits he will be “as nervous as a kitten on the first tee” but excited by the prospect of pitting his game against players of the calibre of Torrance, the former European Ryder Cup Captain.
Only two Scots have won their national seniors open since it began in 1993 – North Berwick’s David Huish in 1998 and Bill Longmuir last year – although Aberdonian John Chillas has twice gone close, missing out by a shot last year and finishing tied third in 2003.
With injury doubts surrounding European Seniors Tour Order of Merit leader Carl Mason, of England, the biggest threat to a third ‘home’ victory could come from former European Ryder Cup player Gordon J Brand and Terry Gale.
Australian Gale – a winner of the event in 2003 - is in a rich vein of form after winning the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open two weeks ago and finishing fourth at the Travis Perkins Senior Masters at Wentworth Club – a place in front of Englishman Brand, who was playing only his second event as a Senior Tour golfer.
Torrance was a little off colour at Wentworth Club and is looking forward to returning to Scotland. “I love playing in Scotland and the course at The Roxburghe is very nice,” said the man from Largs.
The 7,111 yard, par 72 layout was designed by David Thomas, the man behind The De Vere Belfry, San Roque Club and a number of other top courses worldwide. The wide fairways follow the natural contours of The Roxburghe Estate, making full use of the various changes in elevation and lead to large rolling greens. En route the players have to avoid some challenging deep bunkers that are a hallmark of Thomas’s design.
Longmuir won with rounds of 69, 73 and 68 last year after Chillas and Mason both missed putts at the last to force a play-off.
Raised in Essex by Glaswegian parents, 52 year old Longmuir arrives in Scotland buoyed by his final round 67 that gave him a share of seventh place at the Travis Perkins Senior Masters.
“It will be great to return to Scotland as the defending champion. I had a shocker on the Saturday at Wentworth and my girlfriend Gail, who caddied for me, told me afterwards that my body language was poor and I looked uncomfortable. She said I needed to enjoy it more and that is what I did.
“It is nice to show some form before I defend my title at the Charles Church Scottish Seniors Open. I will just try to enjoy myself again.”
Entrance to all three days of the tournament is free, with parking £5 per car.