Ireland’s Denis O’Sullivan will attempt to become only the second Old Age Pensioner to claim a European Senior Tour title after claiming a share of the first round lead in the SSE Enterprise Wales Senior Open, along with Spaniard Miguel Angel Martin, at The Celtic Manor Resort.
O’Sullivan and Martin were able to watch each other shoot three under par rounds of 67 over the Roman Road course as part of the same three ball, and both acknowledged they have very different reasons for wanting to win on Sunday.
The Cork man would love nothing better than to become the oldest swinger in town by following Neil Coles as a 67 year old champion. Martin, meanwhile, is hoping to honour his late mother - who died only a week ago - by capturing his first Senior Tour title.
O’Sullivan, the record holder for starts on the Senior Tour with 290 under his belt, would be 67 years and 81 days if he prevails on Sunday in the tournament supported by SSE Enterprise and the Welsh Government. Only Coles, at 67 years and 276 days, would be older.
“I can’t believe nobody has played more events than me,” exclaimed O’Sullivan, who was even more shocked to learn that only Coles had won a title beyond the age of 64. “Now that’s a stat I do like – winning my seventh Senior title and drawing my pension at the same time.
“Actually, I have another stat to add to the list. I equalled my age for the third time on Tour today and actually beat it last year in Bad Ragaz. Every time I manage that feat, there is a real sense of achievement.”
O’Sullivan finished with three straight threes – birdieing the final two holes. “I hit most of the greens in regulation," he said. "That was the secret. I let some silly shots escape but overall it was a good, solid day.”
Martin, 14 years younger than his playing partner and the only person all day to card a bogey-free round, admitted he wanted nothing more than to win the SSE Enterprise Wales Senior Open title for his late mother, Pilar, who died at the age of 82 last Thursday while her son was playing in the Senior PGA Championship Presented by KitchenAid in Indiana.
“I was playing in the States when I learned she has passed away” he said. “I knew she was very ill before I flew to America but she told me: ‘It’s your job – go and play golf. You have to play’. I wasn’t keen to leave her but she insisted, and it would be great to win in her memory on Sunday.”
England’s Malcolm Mackenzie, Qualifying School graduate Graeme Bell and two-time champion in 2014, Paul Wesselingh, all shot 69s to be nicely in touch, while Scotland’s Bill Longmuir used an eagle two at the first, holing his second shot from the fairway, to help him to a round of 70 alongside a host of players including Welsh favourites Ian Woosnam and Mark Mouland.
Former Masters champion Woosnam, who was not helped by a two and a half hour rain delay in the morning, recovered from a shaky start with birdie twos at the seventh, 15th and 17th to card his level par 70.
“I struggled out there” he said. “My back was really hurting and the pace of play was slow. I couldn’t get going. I am fine when I keep moving but not when the pace of play if over five hours. I am used to playing fast.
“However I hit a couple of nice shots towards the end and made twos from them, which helped a bit. It was a tough day, my back was stiff but you just have to battle through it.”
Mouland concurred about the tricky, blustery conditions. He said: “It was mentally draining in that wind. I am absolutely shattered. It was tough, especially on the more exposed back nine, but level par is now far away.”
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