Roger Chapman paid an emotional tribute to his late coach George Will as he spoke to the European press for the first time since his incredible US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid victory, ahead of this week’s Benahavis Senior Masters.
The Englishman said his attendance was never in doubt this week at La Quinta Golf and Country Club, in the Benahavis region of southern Spain, despite the commitments that come with winning the year’s first Senior Major.
Speaking at a press conference at La Quinta which was attended by press, golf fans and players including Costantino Rocca and Bob Cameron, Chapman was asked what he was thinking going down the final stretch at Harbor Shores last week, and he gave a passionate response.
“I’ll tell you the one thing I was thinking about; my old coach George Will,” said the former European Tour winner. “That was the only thing I was thinking about. George was a very special man in my life. I met him when I was 13. He was like a father figure to me.
“It was the Saturday before the Mauritius Commercial Bank Open in 2010 that he passed away and I tried to win that tournament for him. I had a two shot lead coming down the last and David Frost eagled it and I lost in the play-off so I was disappointed not to win it for George that day.
“That’s basically all I was thinking for the last eight holes at Harbor Shores. My mind started to wander because, being a few shots in front, your mind tends to go a bit haywire. There were instances where I was walking down the fairway and had tears in my eyes, even with six holes to go. You shake yourself off and try and play the next shot but that was all that was on my mind at that stage.”
Chapman’s win has been met by an overwhelming response from his fellow professionals at the Benahavis Senior Masters this week, and the 53 year old admitted he has been extremely humbled by the reception he has received.
“They have been so warm in their congratulations,” he said. “It’s genuine and it’s reciprocated because we’re all in this sport together and it’s a gentleman’s sport. John Cook, on losing last week, was magnanimous in defeat - a proper gentleman. A few of the players hung around afterwards even though they had to get flights and they were great, so it was a special moment.”
The Managing Director of the Senior Tour, Andy Stubbs, praised Chapman, saying a win such as this was “inevitable” for a great player, while two time Ryder Cup player Manuel Piñero said: “I never doubted that Chapman would win a Major tournament on the Senior Tour and it won’t be the last”.
Speaking about this week’s Benahavis Senior Masters, Chapman said: “I'm just going to enjoy it. If I win I win, if I don’t I don’t but it’s just going to be a wonderful experience walking down the fairway as the US Senior PGA Champion. It was never in doubt that I would come to this tournament.”
Chapman will be among a strong Senior Tour field competing for an increased prize fund of €200,000 for the fourth edition of the tournament on Spain’s Costa del Sol.
Former Ryder Cup Captain Mark James will be searching for his first win since 2009 as he returns to the venue where he sealed his best result of last year, when he finished tied second behind Carl Mason, who returns to defend his title.
Amongst the local favourites at La Quinta will be the nine time European Tour winner Piñero, who designed the course over which the Senior Tour’s third tournament of the season will be played.Four-time Senior Tour winner Juan Quiros is also in the field, as are his fellow Spaniards José Maria Cañizares, Antonio Garrido and Miguel Angel Martin, who will make his first appearance at the Benahavis Senior Masters having turned 50 earlier this month.