Ian Baker-Finch celebrated his ‘coming of age’ ahead of the Handa Australian Senior Open, the first event of the 2011 European Senior Tour season, when he officially became a senior golfer on his 50th birthday on Sunday October 24.
Baker-Finch is feeling positive about his return to competitive action at Royal Perth Golf Club from November 19-21, having spent the past 15 years focused on forging a career in TV commentating and golf course design.
“I’m really looking forward to going back to Perth and playing Royal Perth Golf Club, where I won the WA Open in 1984,” said Baker-Finch. “All the guys who played the 2009 tournament raved about the quality of the course, so I’m really looking forward to getting back there and playing it again 26 years on.”
Whilst relishing the prospect of making his Senior Tour debut at the Handa Australian Senior Open, Baker-Finch also acknowledged the threat posed by other players in the field who still earn a living playing full-time on the Tour.
The Queenslander, who won The Open Championship in 1991, said: “It’s crazy to think I could play as well as guys like Peter Senior, Mike Harwood or Ian Woosnam, who still play golf full time. But I want to be competitive, and will be going out there to win. I will continue being a commentator for 25 weeks of the year and work on my golf course design, but I’ll try to play half a dozen senior tournaments as well for the next few years.”
Baker-Finch will be joined in Perth by a cast of Australian greats which includes Wayne Grady, Peter Senior and local favourite Terry Gale, as well as a long list of household names from Europe and beyond who added their names to the field after the three-year co-sanctioning deal with the Senior Tour was announced earlier in the year.
One such star is Major Champion Ian Woosnam of Wales, who last played in Perth at the 2002 Johnnie Walker Classic at Lake Karrinyup Country Club.
“I have really fond memories of Perth and have always played reasonably well there, so I’m looking forward to experiencing some warm weather and getting my game back into some sort of form,” said Woosnam.
The Welshman admitted this season hadn’t been one of his best, but he is looking forward to ending the calendar year on a high by making a strong start to next season.
He said: “I played in Cannes two weeks ago, but didn’t play very well. I haven’t been practicing hard enough to be honest, but I’ve now got a fortnight to work on my game before playing the Senior Tour Championship, and then heading to Australia. So hopefully I can finish the year off strongly.”
Together with the Scottish duo of Sandy Lyle and Sam Torrance, Woosnam and Baker-Finch are both global ambassadors for Dr Handa’s organisation the International Sports Promotion Society (ISPS), which aims to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds into the game.
ISPS has a long-standing commitment to raise the profile of blind golf, and also to foster opportunities for people with disabilities to take up the sport.
Talking further about the role of ISPS and blind golf, Woosnam said: “I think it’s great that Dr Handa can put his money towards charity and developing blind golf. There’s been a tremendous reaction to blind golf so far, and he’s working hard to get golf and blind people into the Paralympics in a really great way.”
This is the second year the Handa Australian Senior Open will be staged at Royal Perth Golf Club after an exciting finish to last year’s tournament, which went down to the wire with a sudden death three-way play-off between eventual winner Mike Harwood, Michael Clayton and Peter Senior. Harwood will return to Perth to defend his title in November.
Entry to the event is by gold coin donation, with all proceeds going to support Blind Golf in Western Australia.