Denmark’s Steen Tinning returns to the stunning Rockliffe Hall this week looking to defend the English Senior Open title he won so memorably ten months ago.
Tinning claimed a second victory of the 2013 season in County Durham as the tournament returned to the European Senior Tour schedule following a six year absence last October, and it was a brilliant triumph that helped propel the Copenhagen native to the Rookie of the Year title and a hard-fought second place to England’s Paul Wesselingh in the Order of Merit.
The 51 year old needed every ounce of his renowned endurance, however, to hold off the challenge of Spaniard Santiago Luna during what was a ding-dong battle on an enthralling Sunday in the north-east of England.
After trading blows throughout the third and final round, Tinning eventually birdied two of the last three holes to narrowly defeat Luna by a single stroke.
“Last year was very unpredictable, I could never have imagined that 17 under par would be the winning score when I first saw that course earlier in the week,” said Tinning, who fired a blistering 63 on Saturday to move into contention.
“There are so many dangers lurking around you can easily get into but somehow I managed to hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens and then my putter was really hot.
“I was striking the ball very well but my putting was very good, it was probably the best I putted all year in fact.
“But so was Santi’s putting on the final day, he was making everything. I have nightmares now of Luna with his putter because that day he was holing everything he looked at.
“It was an exciting climax because you could never predict who was going to win; it could have been Santi but luckily it was me!”
Tinning’s best finish of the 2014 season so far is a runners-up spot at the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship in June, but the former two-time European Tour winner said he felt calm in his attempt to emulate the successes of his debut season.
He continued: “Defending a title is always a great feeling. When you win, you do something extremely special on Sunday but that is a hard and rare thing to achieve.
“I’m not coming into this week expecting to win, I just want to do well. You have to try to work hard and not get ahead of yourself.
“Being Rookie of the Year in 2013 does not add pressure for me, I was very proud to achieve that and I find it inspiring as I try to match up to it this year.”
Tinning is joined this week at Rockliffe Hall, just outside Darlington, by former European Number One Ronan Rafferty and Ryder Cup stars Mark James, Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam and Barry Lane, while reigning Senior Tour Number One Paul Wesselingh is back vying for his first title of the season.
Last week’s SSE Scottish Senior Open winner Mark Davis will also be in the field, looking to build on his eighth place in the Order of Merit thanks to a maiden triumph.
Phillip Golding finished runner-up to Davis at Fairmont St. Andrews, and he will look to go one better when he tees it up from Friday, alongside fellow second placed men Pedro Linhart, Cesar Monasterio and David J Russell who will all look to carry their recent form into three rounds at Rockliffe Hall.