Glenn Ralph clinched his maiden European Senior Tour victory in the Cleveland Golf/Srixon Scottish Senior Open, finishing one stroke clear of compatriot Bob Cameron and Argentine Luis Carbonetti to cap a remarkable comeback from injury.
Ralph, whose previous best finish was runner up in the 2007 Scandinavian Senior Open, had been out of the game for 14 months following a broken right ankle sustained in a swimming pool accident on holiday in Mauritius.
He finished tied sixth on his comeback in the season opening Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum but his €39,353 first prize at Fairmont St Andrews is the biggest cheque of his career, eclipsing his payday in Scandinavian and his best showing on The European Tour, in the 1987 Swiss Open.
“It’s unbelievable – I could have cried on the last hole,” said the 53 year old, who becomes the eighth English winner of the Scottish Senior Open and fifth player to win his maiden Senior Tour title in 2009. “It was too emotional to talk about. I was just trying to keep it under control.
“Any victory would have been big – I just wanted to win. I’ve never won on Tour in my life. I’ve been close enough times but couldn’t quite find it. I just felt better today – I don’t know why.
“I felt calmer until I got on the last green when it went a bit wobbly there. What a great place to get my first victory though – the Home of Golf. It couldn’t be better.”
Ralph, who moves from 30th to ninth in Senior Tour Order of Merit, had started the day a shot behind overnight leader Cameron after a fine second round 67.
He opened his final round with a birdie but immediately followed with a bogey before an eagle three on the par five sixth and a birdie on the seventh moved him to the top of the leaderboard.
The Camberley Heath professional found the bunker on the 12th and made bogey but a run of six straight pars saw him finish on eight under par 209 to clinch a satisfying first trophy which he thought he might never achieve following his career threatening injury.
“It was all a bit of a surprise when I came back as I hadn’t played for so long,” he said. “I had the plates redone and the screws taken out. When you come back it is difficult to know how you are going to do.
“The specialist told me although the bone had healed the break was at the bottom and they couldn’t join it properly. You always think ‘am I going to do it again?’. Age was not on my side.
“In the first tournament back I played well and felt good ever since. I’ve been driving it lovely which is important, particularly round here. I drove well all week. I hit nearly every fairway today. I hit one bunker on 12 and that was it.”
Carbonetti, looking for his first win since 2005, had been level with Ralph until a bogey on the 17th hole proved decisive as he carded a 71, while Cameron’s challenge faltered with a double bogey on the 11th to sign for a 72.
Australian Peter Senior finished a credible fourth on his Senior Tour debut – three shots of the pace – while Gordon Brand Jnr was the leading Scot on three under par after a final round 73.
Ian Woosnam closed the gap on Mark McNulty at the top of the Order of Merit after closing with a 74 to finish in a share of 14th place, while fellow former Ryder Cup Captain Sam Torrance, who designed the Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews, was tied 39th after struggling in the first round with a back injury.