Englishman George Ryall fired a closing round 66 to capture the inaugural Van Lanschot Senior Open by one stroke and become the first non-exempt winner on the European Senior Tour in four years.
The 51 year old from Portishead, who only sealed his place in the field after finishing tied fifth in last week’s Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open, held off the challenge of 2001 PGA Championship winner Andrew Oldcorn at Royal Haagsche Golf and Country Club to land his maiden Senior Tour victory.
Oldcorn had started the final round with a two stroke lead but after Ryall birdied the 18th to set the clubhouse target of ten under par 206, the Scot’s 25ft birdie putt lipped out on the 17th hole and he could only manage par on the last to sign for a 72 and finish on nine under par.
That meant Ryall became the seventh first time winner on the Senior Tour in 2010, sealing both a two year exemption on the Senior Tour and a place in the field at Carnoustie for The Senior Open Championship presented by MasterCard.
“I’m delighted really,” he said. “I had different goals for this week – to get in the top ten to keep playing and top five to get in the top 40 on the Order of Merit for the re-rank so I could get more starts.
“I didn’t really expect to win, ever. I didn’t look at any leaderboards until the 17th when it frightened me to death and I left my putt halfway.
“The turning point was really the putt on the last when I thought I’d missed it left and it turned back into the hole.
“I get two years exemption now and I don’t have to pre-qualify for The Senior Open so it opens up so many doors for me. I’d been sending letters to sponsors all year trying to tell them I was quite good and now they might realise I’m not that bad!”
Ryall finished 63rd on the Senior Tour Order of Merit last season after gaining a conditional card at the Qualifying School but despite having to rely largely on invites, he has now finished inside the top 20 in all but two of his eight appearances so far in 2010.
His victory, which came courtesy of six birdies and one bogey in the final round, saw him become the first player not fully exempt on the Senior Tour to win since Spaniard Juan Quiros triumphed in the 2006 Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open.
“It’s just such a rollercoaster ride golf,” said Ryall. “I’m trying to get used to playing on the Tour so this is a bit of a shock. It’s nice to join guys like Gordon Brand Jnr, Kevin Spurgeon and Glenn Ralph as winners. They are all big friends of mine so it’s nice to be part of that. I’m going to be here on Tour every week now so they’ll get sick of the sight of me!
“I struggled a bit last week in Bad Ragaz being in the final group as it was all a bit new to me but I played very well today and I guess I’m a quick learner!”
With the Dutch facing Spain in the World Cup Final just hours after his victory, Ryall also had a special message for the home spectators in The Hague.
“Of course I’ll be supporting Holland tonight,” he said. “You’ve all supported me all week so I’ll be supporting you tonight.”
Oldcorn’s runner up finish continued his fine run of form since joining the Senior Tour, with his fifth top ten finish in seven starts moving him up to sixth in the Order of Merit.
Former Ryder Cup player Gordon J Brand carded a 68 to finish in third, with Scotland’s Ross Drummond in fourth.
Ryder Cup winning captains Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance finished in tied 48th and tied 68th respectively.
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