Following Chien Soon Lu’s victory in the Fubon Senior Open, the stage is set for another thrilling climax to the European Senior Tour season, with all eyes now on Peter Fowler and Barry Lane’s battle for the John Jacobs Trophy.
Just €25,569 currently separates Fowler from Lane at the top of the Order of Merit, both players having won two times this season.
Australian Fowler captured the ISPS Handa Senior Masters presented by The Stapleford Forum in June and the following month’s Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open in Switzerland, while Lane, in the space of a magical few weeks, successfully defended his Cleveland Golf/Srixon Scottish Senior Open title in August, then finished second at the Travis Perkins plc. Senior Masters at the start of September, and won again the next week in the Czech Republic at the Casa Serena Open.
After a campaign lasting 13 months and 21 tournaments, the season will reach a dramatic finale at the MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius from December 9-11 when Fowler will attempt to become only the third Australian to finish the year as Senior Tour Number One, following in the footsteps of Noel Ratcliffe in 2000 and Ian Stanley in 2001. Lane, meanwhile, will be hoping to become the first Englishman since Carl Mason in 2007 to capture the John Jacobs Trophy.
As the Senior Tour celebrates its 20th anniversary season, the contest between the two former European Tour champions is a fitting tribute to the growth in stature and popularity that the Tour has seen since its inception in 1992, as both men vie to hoist their first John Jacobs Trophy.
First awarded in 1993, the Senior Tour Order of Merit trophy was bequeathed a name synonymous with European golf, the founding father of The European Tour, Ryder Cup legend, and world-renowned teacher, John Jacobs.
Jacobs was the Tour’s trail-blazing first Tournament Director-General and his name commands the respect and gratitude of anyone involved in the game.
The Yorkshireman’s lifetime in golf was recognised with the award of an OBE in the 1997 Queen’s Birthday Honours and again in the year 2000 when he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, who described Jacobs as the “pioneering architect of Europe's united approach to the modern game”.
After his appointment in October 1971 – the date marking the official birth of The European Tour – Jacobs, born in Sheffield in 1925, had dual Ryder Cup connections both as a player and a Captain.
In his sole Ryder Cup appearance at Palm Springs, California, in 1955, Jacobs finished the week undefeated after winning both his foursomes and singles matches, before captaining the revolutionised 1979 team – the first to include continental Europeans – and again in 1981.
Jacobs’ reputation as one of the leading lights in golf tutorship also endeared him to the golfing community, with Butch Harmon once saying: “There is not one teacher who does not owe something to John. He wrote the book on coaching.”
The honour of winning a trophy that bears Jacobs’ name, then, becomes clear; his is a name that inspires the ambitions of every Senior Tour Member.
Since the Senior Tour’s formal inception in 1992 there have been eleven different winners of the trophy, including Tommy Horton, who dominated the Tour in the 1990s, topping the money-list on five occasions throughout the decade.
In the first decade of the new century the affable Mason, currently eighth in the 2011 standings, lifted the John Jacobs trophy three times, in 2003, 2004 and 2007, while former Ryder Cup star and Captain Sam Torrance also amassed a treble of Senior Tour season successes in 2005, 2006 and 2009.
Welshman Ian Woosnam won the trophy at the first time of asking in his rookie season in 2008, a highly successful year when he also unsurprisingly scooped the European Senior Tour Rookie of the Year Award.
Last year another rookie again took centre stage on the Senior Tour, Thailand’s Boonchu Ruangkit becoming only the second player from Asia to win the John Jacobs Trophy after Seiji Ebihara of Japan in 2002.
Ruangkit claimed four superb victories en route to topping the 2010 Order of Merit, including three wins in a row in what was a stunning month’s work in March 2010 with victories in Brunei, his native Thailand and South Africa, and also sealed the Rookie of the Year Award in the process.
And with two new contenders this year vying for the prestige of landing their first John Jacobs Trophy, and the wealth of Ryder Cup and Major winning Members already in the Senior ranks only set to be bolstered over the coming years, the future of the European Senior Tour and the revered John Jacobs Trophy looks in rude health.
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