Santiago Luna may be closing in on his 600th European Tour appearance, but the Spaniard has other targets on his horizon as he prepares to embark on a new career on the European Senior Tour.
Luna turned 50 last November, thus just missing out on the 2012 Senior Tour season, so he has been carefully biding his time for the chance to join the many other former European Tour winners now plying their trade on the Senior Tour.
He is due to make his debut in the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship at De Vere Mottram Hall next month, but first he returns to European Tour action this week at the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI, the tournament at which he earned his sole European Tour win in 1995.
That will be his 596th event on The European Tour, meaning he is just one tournament short of Senior Tour player Gordon Brand Jnr who occupies eighth position on the list of career appearances.
Having made his European Tour debut in 1984, Luna is now looking forward to being a ‘rookie’ once again on the over 50s circuit.
“I cannot wait to play in the Senior Tour,” he said. “It is my place now. I have been playing with the younger guys and seeing the distances they hit and how well they play and that just confirms that it is my time now to join the Senior Tour.
“It’s a different environment on the Senior Tour - a nice friendly environment. I have been playing on The European Tour for nearly 30 years and the experience was fantastic, but the last couple of years it was starting to become more difficult because you are always trying to do well and be competitive, but the line is getting further away.
“Now it is time to be with my friends, on my natural level with players of the same age. I'm really happy to be starting there soon.
“I would love to get a couple more wins for my career but it is not easy to win on the Senior Tour, I know that.
“You can see even the older guys are still playing really great golf, nothing comes easy. The standard is really high.
“These people have been playing competitively all of their lives so they know how to play the game, that’s for sure.”
Luna, who defeated Tiger Woods in the semi-final of the 1998 Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews to help Spain reach the final against South Africa, is also looking forward to making his debut in the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex from July 25-28.
This year The Senior Open visits Royal Birkdale for the first time, a venue where Luna recorded his best finish in a Major Championship of tied 35th in The 1998 Open Championship, and where he was one shot behind leader Seve Ballesteros after the first round in 1991.
“I am so excited about The Senior Open Championship because the first time I was in Birkdale, during the first round my brother was watching the leader board and noticed, ‘my brother is in the lead’!” he said.
“I made bogey on the last though and Seve made par so he was the leader at the end of the day and I was one shot behind.
“I remember the second round, the wind was left to right, really strong. I tried to hit an iron from the tee at the first and I went out of bounds with the first ball.
“I thought to myself, ‘my goodness, I need to be careful here because I have 18 holes to go’. I made the cut and it was such a fun experience, so I remember that course with a lot of love.
“It was definitely one of the best experiences of my career. I played four or five Opens, two of them in Birkdale and I made the cut at both of them. I cannot wait to be there.
“I would love to see my name at the top of the leaderboard again, definitely. That is the reason why I am playing at the moment and why I asked for an invite to the Madeira Islands Open, because I want to keep competitive and keep playing because I need it. I need to work towards the level on the Senior Tour and for The Senior Open Championship.”
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