They may be at opposite ends of their playing careers and separated by nearly half of a century in age, but Tony Jacklin and his youngest son Sean will be united by a common goal next month when they compete on the European Senior Tour and European Challenge Tour in the same week.
Two-time Major Champion Tony Jacklin, one of England’s greatest golfers and a four-time Ryder Cup Captain, will return to the competitive game after an absence of five years when he takes part in The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex at Turnberry, on the west coast Scotland, from July 26-29.
Meanwhile, some 412 miles away at Stoke-by-Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa, Sean will embark on his professional career after receiving an invitation to play in the English Challenge, which takes place the same week.
The youngest of Jacklin’s six children, 21 year old Sean recently graduated from the University of North Carolina where he majored in Business Administration, and he is now hoping to follow in his famous father’s footsteps.
Sean has been playing on the West Florida Golf Tour which bears his father’s name but, having completed his studies, he is now ready to make the step up to the Challenge Tour.
“I always wanted to be a pro golfer,” said Sean. “It was just the dream of being the best that always drove me on. I love the competition. My dad never really had to push me because I never wanted to do anything else. I never had a change of heart about playing golf.
“I played soccer and baseball at school and I was quite good, but for some reason golf always stuck with me.
“Of course, my father set me off with the fundamentals of the game. To be honest, he just told me to watch the best guys and see how they do it. It was more a case of watching how they deal with pressure rather than analysing their swings. He constantly tells me to watch these guys and see what their traits are when the pressure is on. Watch them coming down the stretch.
He added: “My dad has definitely been the most help in my career so far. I know I'm really lucky to have a former Major winner as my dad.
“He’s pushing 68 now, but he hasn’t changed. It’s funny, I caddied for him when he played The Open in 2007 and when he finished he said, ’I’m done’. But since I’ve become a good player and I turned pro he’s really getting back into it.
“We always play together and he plays one tee up just because of length, but he’s always taking it to me. He gets really into it. It’s really fun to see and it’s great that we can practise together and drive each other on. Of course, I'm victorious most of the time. But not all the time.”
Tony Jacklin turns 68 three weeks before The Senior Open Championship and while he is understandably disappointed at missing out on being at Sean’s professional Challenge Tour debut, he is relishing the chance to play in another Senior Open Championship.
“I am over for The Open at Royal Lytham, where I won in 1969, then I’m playing in the British Par 3 Championship a couple of weeks later so as I’m exempt for The Senior Open I thought I would play,” he said. “It is at Turnberry, which is one of my favourite spots.
“I’m sure as it gets closer I will be a bit more apprehensive, but I’ve been playing a bit more recently and I’m hitting it well. The putting has been in and out which has always been the case with me. I’ve been playing at the Concession, the course I built with Jack (Nicklaus), and it’s a very demanding lay-out so it’s good preparation.
“I’ve been going to Turnberry since the early 60s and I’ve got some great memories there. It is one of the great links courses. You have to manufacture your shots around there. It’s a great course which has produced some great champions and is a special place.”
Having mentored Sean through his formative years in the game, the 1969 Open Champion and 1970 US Open Champion believes his son could have a big future.
“He’s just finished college and golf is now the centre of his life,” he said. “It will be nice for him to play a couple of times on the Challenge Tour and get some experience. It gives him a chance to see how he fares against the other young hot shots. It’s difficult for the young players to get a chance so it is a big opportunity for him.
“We’ve been careful not to push him too much in junior golf as so many kids burn out by the time they are 17. He is ready now physically and mentally and this is a chance for him to see how good he is. I’m fairly confident of his ability and he has ambitions to get on Tour.
“It will be a proud moment for me to see him playing on the Tour and starting in the game. He’s had a life apprenticeship in the business having been around the game for so many years. He’s got to keep playing well and keep his game sharp. He doesn’t shoot high numbers and is physically strong. It’s just a question of how hungry he is. You can’t look inside a person. He needs the competition now, but I’ve got a good feeling about him.”
Discounted advance tickets for The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex can now be purchased online, with season passes now available at £60 and any one day tickets at £18. They can be booked online at www.europeantourtickets.com, where other discounts and offers can also be found.
Hospitality packages are also now available at £95 per person inc VAT, which includes admittance to the course along with a three-course lunch and glass of champagne in Turnberry’s signature restaurant, 1906, reserved parking, a Championship programme and a draw sheet.
American Russ Cochran won The 2011 Senior Open Championship at Walton Heath, England, holding off the challenge of former Open Champion Mark Calcavecchia, three-time Senior Open Champion Tom Watson and 2010 United States Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin.