At the age of 76 years young, Sir Bob Charles added another extraordinary chapter to his golfing legend at the European Senior Tour’s Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open by beating his age by an incredible ten strokes to move into a share of third place – two strokes behind leader David J Russell.
Charles’s incredible first round 66 – which smashes his own previous Senior Tour record of five strokes less than his age – started with a terrible drive into the left-hand rough at the Golf Club Bad Ragaz which led to a bogey five.
But the man from New Zealand – the first left-hander to win a Major at The 1963 Open Championship – then proceeded to put on a golfing master class as he rolled back the years and rolled home the putts to claim five birdies and join the six-way tie for third place, two strokes behind leader Russell and one behind former Ryder Cup Captain Mark James.
“That was one of those dream rounds,” smiled Charles, who played alongside another 76 year old legend, Gary Player, who posted his own exceptional round of 72.
“I have just bettered my age by ten shots – I have never got anywhere near that figure before. It’s quite remarkable really. I hope it’s a record.
“I have had some great days in my career and this is one of them. I felt young again. My putting certainly reminded of the days of my youth. I hit a lot of good shots and never missed any short putts and that was the secret really. I made two really big 15-foot par putts to and they were crucial.
“I take a lot of satisfaction from today. These days that is the goal and today was, as I said, like a dream and one I will never forget.”
Charles’s career is awash with unforgettable moments.
The first left-hander to lift a Major at Royal Lytham St Annes in 1963, Charles received a Knighthood in 1999 following an amazing career that saw him win almost 80 titles around the world, including the 1993 Senior Open Championship, 30 years after his Open success.
He remains the oldest player to make the cut at a European Tour event after his 23rd place finish in the 2007 New Zealand Open – which included a brilliant second round 68 – aged 71 years and 261 days.
Charles officially retired at the 2010 edition of the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open but he returned this year due to his love for the Bad Ragaz area and the golf club. He does not play too many rounds of golf at home in Christchurch these days, but he “hits 52-75 balls three times a week on the golf course next to the farm at home” to keep in shape.
He said: “I retired at this tournament two years ago and I have only played one competitive tournament since then – the Legends of Golf with Gary (Player) – so I really didn’t know what to expect today.
“I came back here because I love Bad Ragaz, I love Switzerland, and I love coming back here to this golf club because the welcome we receive is overwhelming.
“I retired because I wasn’t competitive anymore and I always said that I didn’t want to hang around if I couldn’t compete. Unfortunately when you get to my age the golf shots get shorter and the golf courses get longer and that combination is just not compatible!
“But that’s what made today so special. It felt great out there. Can I win the tournament? I would doubt it but you just never know if I can keep putting as well as I did today……”