Defending champion Carl Mason has spent two days familiarising himself with the sometimes deceiving lines of the Wales National Course as he bids to become the quickest player – and only the third ever - to break through the €1m mark in European Seniors Tour earnings.
So far Mason has amassed €989,167 in the three years since turning 50 and will, by all probability, move into seven figures this week at the £500,000 FIRSTPLUS Wales Seniors Open at The Vale Hotel, Golf & Spa Resort, near Cardiff.
With such a big prize fund on offer, Mason only needs to finish inside the top 17 – something he has managed to do in all but six of the tournaments he has completed since joining the European Seniors Tour in 2003 - to ensure he will join Tommy Horton of England and Australian Noel Ratcliffe in the millionaires’ club.
Four more players can also go through the €1m mark this week. England's Jim Rhodes currently stands on €941,575 and needs to finish first or second, while Denis O’Sullivan of Ireland (€914,732), England's Neil Coles (€913,114) and Australian Terry Gale (€905,751) all need to win.
“I am in a nice position this week, as the defending champion, and to pass €1m would be an extra bonus – and one that, to be honest, I had forgotten all about,” said Mason, displaying the modesty that has made him a popular champion of 11 seniors titles and two Order of Merit crowns.
After completing the Pro-Am in beautiful sunshine on Thursday, the Englishman whisked wife Beryl off for a special meal to celebrate her birthday but, come Sunday, it is Mason himself who hopes to be the one celebrating a second successive Wales Seniors Open title - and the €109,366 first prize - as the tournament makes its first visit to The Vale.
“I have been playing pretty good recently so I am hoping for a good week. Hopefully the glorious weather will bring the crowds out and make a good tournament,” he said.
“This course is a bit tricky: you have to know your way around. There are some lines off the tee that you would not believe, so it requires a few practice rounds to know where to hit it.”
The 2003 and 2004 European Seniors Tour Order of Merit champion won by five shots last year at Royal St David’s in Harlech but to repeat that feat he will have to overcome a tremendous field that includes Eamonn Darcy, Guillermo Encina, Bernard Gallacher, Tony Johnstone, Bill Longmuir, Manuel Piňero, Jose Rivero, Des Smyth and the in-form Sam Torrance, who is looking for his third win in four starts.
“All the time the Seniors Tour is getting better and better,” opined Mason in response to the strength in depth of the Wales field. “I think you have a good five or six years at your best once you turn 50 and I am trying to make the most of them. To break through the €1m barrier would be a good record to have and would mean that I have done it pretty quickly. Seniors golf has been good to me.”
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