Gordon J Brand, the English former Ryder Cup player, tees up in the €325,000 Gloria Classic on Friday with his sights firmly set on blazing a trail into the European Seniors Tour record books.
Brand is in the middle of a remarkable run of form that has seen him win three of the last four events and another success at Gloria Golf Resort in Belek, Turkey this week would put him alongside Tommy Horton as the only other golfer to have triumphed in three consecutive tournaments.
Horton, the most successful player in European Seniors Tour history, won the final three events of the 1997 season - namely the Scottish Seniors Open, Clubhaus Seniors Classic and the Senior Tournament of Champions. A decade later and Brand is threatening to match that achievement after capturing the final event of 2006 - the Arcapita Seniors Tour Championship - and the first one of 2007 - the DGM Barbados Open.
Brand can expect some stiff opposition from his friend Carl Mason, another Englishman who is looking to extend his own purple patch in Turkey this week.
Mason reeled off a three-from-four victory streak towards the end of the 2006 season which means that he and Brand - both former European Seniors Tour referees - have monopolised the last six titles. If Mason can scoop the €48,750 first prize on Sunday, then he will have registered four victories in six starts.
Standing in the way of both men's ambitions is a strong field that has gathered for the start of a seven-week tournament stretch that will take in the UK, Ireland, Continental Europe and the United States for the US Senior PGA Championship.
A total of 29 of the leading 30 players on the 2006 Order of Merit are in action, led by reigning Number One Sam Torrance of Scotland, plus a wide range of Rookie players including Ross Drummond of Scotland, Andrew Murray of England and 2006 Qualifying School winner David Merriman of Australia.
Meanwhile, former European Tour winners Eamonn Darcy of Ireland, Stewart Ginn of Australia, Tony Johnstone of Zimbabwe and José Rivero of Spain are others who are expected to feature prominently.
In all, 16 countries will be represented in the 72 man field and linking the different cultures is a shared experience of not having played the course before.
Gloria Golf Resort has hosted the event on three previous occasions (in 2001 when Australian Noel Ratcliffe won; in 2000 when Welshman Brian Huggett triumphed; and in 1998 when American Bob Lendzion scooped the title) but all these took place over the Old Course, while this year’s Gloria Classic is being played on the spectacular New Course.
Designed by Frenchman Michel Gayon and shaped by four large lakes, the 6,823-yard, par 72 New Course opened in October 2005 and will be hosting its biggest golf tournament to date.
Last played six years ago, when Ratcliffe lifted the trophy, the return of The Gloria Classic to the European Seniors Tour Schedule is further evidence of the country’s burgeoning status as a top-class golfing destination.
Located at the gateway between the Asian and European continents and once best known as the seat of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, modern Turkey is now a golfing paradise that is attracting some of world’s best course designers.
Andy Stubbs, Managing Director of the European Seniors Tour, said: “Turkey, and particularly the region of Belek which incorporates Gloria Golf Resort, has grown into a truly exceptional golfing destination and I know are players are delighted to be returning there.
“This will be our fourth visit to Gloria Golf Resort but this time we are looking forward to the challenge of the New Course, which I am certain will provide an excellent champion in keeping with the six previous Turkish Seniors Opens won by Bobby Verwey, Tommy Horton (twice), Bob Lendzion, Brian Huggett and Noel Ratcliffe.”