Two-time European Tour champion Mark Mouland is relishing making his European Senior Tour debut in the US Senior PGA Championship next month and admits he has been counting down the years for the moment to arrive.
The Welshman, who made 557 European Tour appearances in a career spanning more than 20 years, turned 50 last weekend and will tee it up with the Seniors for the first time at Valhalla Golf Club, the host venue for The 2008 Ryder Cup, from May 26-29.
Far from tailing off since losing his European Tour card in 2003, Mouland has continued to play full-time and is itching to get stuck into life on the Senior Tour.
“The last few years in my forties I’ve almost been wishing my life away waiting to play on the Senior Tour, but now it’s here I’m thinking ‘oh no I’m 50’,” said Mouland, whose father, Sid, was also a professional.
“I’m one of those players who say ‘have clubs, will play’. I’ll go anywhere for a game.
“I’ve kept myself very busy the last few years. After I lost my card I played on the Challenge Tour for a couple of seasons, then I played on the Asian Tour for a couple of years, and last year I played a lot of different mini tours and pro-ams in the UK. So I’ve kept very busy and am still playing competitive golf, which I think is a good thing. Lots of other guys take two or three years off before going on the Senior Tour, but I didn’t want to do that.
“I haven’t stopped because I didn’t want a break. As long as I could play on a tour somewhere, I just kept playing. I’m the old boy playing with all the young blokes! It’s about keeping active and staying competitive and hopefully that’s going to stand me in good stead for life on the Senior Tour.
“I also help organise the British Par 3 Championship, which has gone from strength to strength. Tony Jacklin has been involved and some of the Senior Tour players like Carl Mason. It’s lovely to be part of that and watch it grow, and it’s fun because it’s getting together with all my old mates. We have a good time.”
It was nearly all very different for Mouland, however, as he was involved in a head-on motorway car accident in 1986, shortly after he won his first European Tour title, the Car Care Plan Invitational at Moortown Golf Club in Leeds. Fortunately, he bounced back very quickly, finishing a career-best 16th on the Order of Merit in 1987 and winning the KLM Open in 1988.
“I broke both feet and ankles in the crash,” he said. “I wasn’t out for that long – only about six weeks recuperating and in plaster – but at the time I did wonder whether I’d ever play again. It took an hour and a half to cut me out of the car and my face was badly cut up, but thankfully I’ve never had any repercussions from it.
“I’m lucky to have had a very interesting life and career so far. I’ve travelled the world doing something I love. I won the British Boys’ Championship in 1976 when I was 15, which still stands as the record youngest winner, I’ve won a couple of European Tour titles and lost a couple of play-offs, and I’ve won a couple of Mauritius Opens. I represented Wales in the Dunhill Cup seven times and eight times in the World Cup, which were great experiences.
“I once played 17 Tour events in a row, which is an awful lot. The guys these days play four weeks running then have a couple of weeks off because they’re knackered.”
As for his chances of a debut victory at the US Senior PGA Championship – and for the rest of his rookie season – Mouland is not making any assumptions.
“Who knows whether I can win in my rookie season – I wouldn’t like to say,” he said. “I’m under no illusions – it’s a strong tour and the guys can still play. I’ll just try and play my best and see what happens.
“Playing on the Senior Tour will be like the old days. I’m just looking forward to seeing all the old faces, playing with old friends and having a good time. It’ll be a lot more relaxed than when we played on The European Tour, but we’re still out to win.
“I have a provisional ranking on the Champions Tour which I got through the Qualifying School over there, so I’ll be playing some events in America and some here. It’s going to involve a fair bit of travelling back and forth, but I don’t mind that and I’m lucky to have stayed very fit and slim as I work out in the gym.”