Monday, 18 December 2017
Clark Dennis  (Getty Images)
Clark Dennis (Getty Images)
At the start of 2017, Clark Dennis admitted that he hadn’t decided if he would make the journey to Portugal for European Senior Tour Qualifying School. Less than 12 months later, the American would finish the season as the Number One golfer on this side of the Atlantic.

Plying his trade in the United States during the 1990s, Dennis fluctuated between the PGA Tour and what is now known as the Web.com Tour. His best result came in 1993 with victory at the  Nike Bakersfield Open on the US developmental Tour, although he did finish tied sixth at the U.S. Open the following year.

Dennis arrived at Pestana Golf Resort as an unknown quantity having missed out on one of the five coveted Senior Tour cards in 2016, his first eligible year.

After the first two rounds of 2017 Q School, he was ten shots off the pace as Brendan McGovern raced clear, but Dennis fired a third round seven under par 64 to take sole possession of second place. After the fourth and final round, he shared second place with compatriot Gary Rusnak and England’s Peter Wilson, whom Dennis would strike up an unlikely friendship with as the season progressed.

At the first event of the 2017 season in Sharjah, Dennis finished the first round just one shot off the lead but faded in the later rounds as he settled for a share of 19th place. Despite dropping down the leaderboard, the plucky Texan remained confident.

He then finished in a share of fourth place at the European Tour Properties Senior Classic, carding three under par rounds.

Forced to qualify for his ‘home’ Senior Open, Dennis emphatically secured his place at Salem Country Club as he won his U.S. Senior Open qualifier by seven strokes.

Dennis shrugged off a missed cut in Massachusetts by coming close to winning in back-to-back weeks when he returned to Europe.

A miscued approach to the 54th and final hole at the Swiss Seniors Open saw his ball hit the grandstand and go out of bounds as he settled for third place.

The following week at the WINSTONgolf Senior Open, he led by three strokes but struggled in the final round as Phillip Price raced clear to secure his first over-50s title.

His fifth-placed finish in Germany meant that he had finished inside the top five in three consecutive regular Senior Tour events.

Woburn provided the setting for one of the most dramatic final rounds of the season, as Dennis looked on course for his first title at the Travis Perkins Masters. Starting the final round three strokes ahead, he led by seven with just 11 holes to play but dropped seven strokes on those final holes as Philip Golding won by one.

After three near misses, would Dennis become the Senior Tour’s ‘also-ran’?

The following week, he found himself in a position all too familiar to him – leading after the second round. Although this time, at the Senior Italian Open presented by Villaverde Resort, he had company in the shape of Australia’s Peter Fowler.

Rain forced the abandonment of the final round, and a one-hole play-off between Dennis and Fowler for the title. When the chips were down, Dennis showed his mettle as he birdied the first extra hole to finally secure his first title.

Less than a month later, he won his second crown on the Senior Tour at the Dutch Masters, battling against the elements to overturn a one-stroke deficit against the Tour’s record winner Carl Mason.

His victory at The Dutch saw him move to first place on the Order of Merit, a position he would not relinquish. He would have secured the John Jacobs Trophy at the Farmfoods European Senior Masters if not for a 50-foot wonder putt from Stephen Dodd, which saw the Welshman win his second title.

With seven golfers in with a mathematical chance of winning the John Jacobs Trophy at the final event of the year, Dennis couldn’t afford to rest on his laurels in Mauritius.

Although out of the race for the title at the season-ending MCB Tour Championship, Dennis still had it all to do in the final round as Peter Fowler and Chris Williams remained in the race for the John Jacobs Trophy.

Having struggled to get over the line in the early part of the season, Dennis shored up his now-growing reputation as a closer and carded a five under par final round, becoming the first American in history to finish the year as Senior Tour Number One.

Key stats

Money earned: €222,055

Average finishing position: 16th

Top five finishes: Eight

Birdies: 164

Eagles: Six

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