Two graduates of the 2004 European Seniors Tour Qualifying School sit proudly at the top of the class after day one of the Bovis Lend Lease European Senior Masters at Woburn Golf Club. England’s Kevin Spurgeon and American Bob Boyd both carded five under par rounds of 67 and lead the tournament by a stroke from Scotland’s Sam Torrance.
Italian Giuseppe Cali is alone in fourth place on three under while Mark James of England is among a group of five players on minus two. Defending champion Luis Carbonetti from Argentina is a shot further back after shooting a 71 over the Duke’s Course.
But the day belonged to Boyd and particularly Spurgeon, who aced the 134 yard third hole with a wedge – a feat which won him 175 bottles of Australian wine from Hardys, a loyal sponsor of the European Seniors Tour.
That provided the springboard for a stunning outward nine of 30 and only two bogeys fives at 16 and 17 slowed Spurgeon’s progress.
Afterwards, the club professional from Bournemouth announced himself “over the moon” with his round of 67, which was a wonderfully apt comment given that he had once considered becoming a professional footballer before opting for a career in golf.
The 50 year old Seniors Tour rookie comes from a notable sporting background as his late father Keith was the manager of Dutch football team Ajax in the early 1960s, which meant that Kevin grew up alongside one Johan Cruyff, who went on to become one of the greatest footballers of his generation.
He said: “Dad has not been with us for a long time – he died of Motor Neurone Disease some 18 years ago – but he always said to me that if I had stuck with the bigger ball I would have been a lot richer! But then I wouldn’t have been doing it at this time in my life. I wouldn’t have been kicking a ball at 50, while I am still enjoying my golf. It’s fantastic to be playing on the European Seniors Tour.”
Having finished third at the 2004 Qualifying School, Spurgeon joined the European Seniors Tour after turning 50 on April 21 this year and has already accumulated four top ten finishes, catapulting him to 30th place on the Order of Merit with earnings of €51,925.
It has been a dream come true for a man whose biggest result on The European Tour came with a cheque for €16,719 after finishing tied 14th at The Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open in 2001.
“So far things have exceeded all my expectations. I have got into the top 30 on the Order of Merit and in my first year I am over the moon. I am looking forward to playing the full season next year.
“I played nicely today. I like this sort of course and I have been playing well over the last few weeks, so you never know. I have got to try and do it all again over the next two days.”
Boyd – who won last year’s Q School Finals in Portugal by seven strokes - is another newcomer who has made a quick impression with two top ten finishes since turning 50 in late July.
“I am absolutely enjoying my time over here. The golf courses are good, the competition out here is marvellous. I hadn’t been putting very well but today was a little better. I hit one bad drive all day, at the 17th, and I was behind a tree and had to chip out, which led to my only bogey,” said the man from North Carolina.
“I expect to do well. I have won some tournaments over in the States, so I think I can win a tournament here – there is no doubt about it. My immediate goal is to somehow get some status for next year so I don’t have to come back to the Qualifying School.”
But despite his enjoyment of life in Europe, Boyd’s thoughts this week have been towards home after the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina.
“I have friends in New Orleans but I have not had chance to speak to them. We are familiar with hurricanes - we are actually called ‘Hurricane Alley’ in the Carolinas. We have had four hurricanes in the last four years ourselves but we have not had the devastation that New Orleans is having and our thoughts and prayers are with those people.”
This was an apt sentiment for a tournament like the Bovis Lend Lease European Senior Masters, which has close links with charity – a fact that was illustrated when
John Spanswick, Chairman and Chief Executive of tournament sponsor Bovis Lend Lease EMEA, presented a 17-seater mini-bus to The Variety Club of Great Britain on behalf on the construction industry.