Englishman Kevin Spurgeon returns to The Netherlands this week where his father used to manage football giants Ajax. EuropeanTour.com looks at his remarkable tale.
World Cup fever may be gripping The Netherlands this week as the Dutch prepare for Sunday’s final against Spain but for Senior Tour player Kevin Spurgeon the Van Lanschot Senior Open is a trip down his own footballing memory lane.
Spurgeon spent part of his formative years in the Dutch capital Amsterdam, where his father Keith was manager of European giants Ajax from 1961-62.
During that time the Spurgeon family lived in a small bungalow on the corner of the De Meer stadium, Ajax’s former home ground. Among the young trainees to visit Chez Spurgeon for an English style lunch to fatten him up was a certain Johan Cruyff, who went on to be Ajax’s most famous product and perhaps Holland’s greatest player.
“Johan used to come round for dinner and Mum and Dad actually built him up,” said Spurgeon. “There’s a bit in his autobiography about our family. My uncle, who passed away a couple of years ago, used to keep in touch with Henry Cruyff – Johan’s brother – in Amsterdam.
“I’ve been trying to get in touch with Johann actually. I think he knows I’m a golf professional so hopefully it will happen.
“I was about seven at the time and he is about six years older than me. My dad knew he was going be a great player and he went on to be the best there was in his time. He’s up there with the Peles and Eusebios – he was fantastic with Ajax when he grew up there.
“It’s been great coming back to Holland this week. Sadly I’m not going to get chance to visit Amsterdam and some old friends but it’s nice being here, especially with the World Cup final being on Sunday.
“I’ve been ordering drinks and meals in Dutch – it’s slowly coming back to me.”
Spurgeon Snr was a defender for Tottenham Hotspur’s reserve team and Margate but it was in management that he made his name, also taking coaching roles in Sweden, Cyprus and America in addition to the glamour job with Ajax.
Although his father died 20 years ago from Motor Neurone disease – something Spurgeon said was awful to watch – the experience of travelling the world with him as a youngster is one that has prepared him well for his own career on the Senior Tour.
“People always want to talk to me about my father,” said Spurgeon. “He played for Tottenham as a centre half for a while but he did both cartilages in his knee and went on to be one of the youngest European managers to go abroad.
“When we went to America I was 16 and he was manager of the Dallas Tornados soccer team and I played for the Juniors. He always told me I would have made a lot of money with a big ball rather than a small ball but then with the big ball I would have been finished by 30 and at least here on the Tour I’m 54 and still going and earning money.”
Instead of following his father and Cruyff into the football world, it is on the golf course where Spurgeon has made his own sporting name, having successfully made the transition from Club Professional to European Senior Tour regular, winning the Rookie of the Year in his first season in 2005.
After missing out on a maiden title when he finished runner up to Costantino Rocca in the 2007 Irish Senior Open, the 55 year old then broke his duck when he finished one stroke clear of another former Ryder Cup player, Gordon J Brand, to win the inaugural Mauritius Commercial Bank Open in December.
“Overall my time on the Senior Tour has been fantastic,” he said. “From day one when I qualified to today has just been great. I know I had to go back to school at the start of 2009 but that was something I had to do and I did it.
“The Senior Tour has given me another living because I probably wouldn’t have stayed in golf. When I was 48 I was trying to practice and concentrate on getting into the Senior Tour and I worked hard and said to everyone I was going to do it and I did.
"I finished tied third in the Qualifying School and we went off the course and had a beer and Derrick Cooper (Senior Tour rules official) came across and said ‘no – you have a play-off’. We thought he was joking! All the adrenaline had gone and we had to play the first play-off hole half-cut!
“In my first year I had a great start – I had six top ten finishes and I won Rookie of the Year, finishing just above Gordon J Brand. It was great. I got a lot of publicity at home and everyone there has been really supportive of me. I’ve had two great sponsors for me as well Dean Side Lettings and Merlot UK.
“Before the start of this year I thought I would really like to win and I did. I had a couple of chances earlier in my career, in Ireland in 2007 and Jersey last year. The one thing I really wanted to do was win and show that I could do it and I did in Mauritius. That gave me a two year exemption which was fantastic for me as I not really had a great category before. It’s a great feeling for a normal club-pro to still be here among all these guys and managing to win.
“My five years on the Senior Tour has been a learning curve for me. All these guys who are coming on from the main Tour have been doing it for 25 years or more and they can deal with it all. I’m still learning how to cope with it and it’s quite hard. But I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
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