Australia’s Graham Marsh, who won the old Scottish Open at St Andrews on The European Tour in 1973, is seeking to complete a double success by adding the 2007 Charles Church Scottish Seniors Open to his career haul of 66 worldwide victories when he tees up at the Marriott Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club on the outskirts of Edinburgh this week.
Marsh is making a rare appearance on the European Seniors Tour – but it is a tournament the 63 year old is eager to contest as he bids to deny the defending champion, Scotland’s Sam Torrance, from retaining his title when the action gets underway.
“I’m glad to be playing and going back to Scotland,” said Marsh, who has two US Senior Major Championships to his name. “I was due to play the European Senior Masters at Woburn, but had to withdraw because of business commitments in America.
“I was very disappointed, because I won the first professional event staged at Woburn back in 1979, so was looking forward to going back and trying to win again. But I knew I would be okay to go to Scotland, as I’ve got a month in Europe now.”
To triumph, Marsh will have to overcome a home challenge led, not only by a determined Torrance but also by a resurgent John Chillas who triumphed over England’s Glenn Ralph at the fourth extra hole in last week’s Scandinavian Senior Open in Denmark.
Some 12 months ago, Torrance celebrated his 40th victory as a professional when he closed with a final round of 70 for a winning 54-hole total aggregate of three under par 213, which proved enough to pip fellow Scot Bill Longmuir by one stroke.
It was Torrance’s third victory on Dalmahoy’s East Course, following his triumphs in the Scottish PGA Championship in 1985 and 1993 – and he is excited about going for a fourth on his native soil.
Europe’s winning Ryder Cup Captain in 2002, who hails from Largs, said: “It is always great to win in my home country. I have great support up in Scotland, so it’s always a wee bit more special than my other wins when I win here. I’m looking forward to getting back to Dalmahoy to defend. ”
Chillas turned his season around in fine style at Royal Copenhagen Golf Club last week, the additional work he has been putting into his game on the range paying dividends with a gutsy victory over Ralph, who battled bravely in the quest for his maiden European Seniors Tour title, but who fell at the fourth extra hole.
“It is always nice to be able play at home and with the victory last week I will go to Dalmahoy with renewed confidence,” said Chillas.
Other home challengers include Ross Drummond – a four time winner of the Scottish Professional Championship who will make his debut in the event having turned 50 last November – 2004 winner Bill Longmuir, who captured The Midas English Seniors Open at St Mellion last month, Mike Miller – who was third a year ago at Dalmahoy in a Scottish one-two-three in the final standings – Martin Gray and Steve Martin.
Italy’s Costantino Rocca is another making his Seniors debut in Scotland, the country where he so memorably holed a monster putt through the Valley of Sin on the 18th hole at St Andrews to set up a play-off for the 1995 Open Championship that John Daly eventually secured.
Also teeing it up at Dalmahoy are two former Scottish Seniors Open winners, English duo Nick Job (2005) and Denis Durnian (2002), while Carl Mason, the current European Seniors Tour Order of Merit leader, is another who can also add a Scottish Seniors Open crown to the Bell’s Scottish Open he won at Gleneagles in 1994.