Since turning 50 in 2016, Stephen Dodd has never finished outside the top ten on the Staysure Tour Order of Merit, and 2018 was his best year yet.
The Welshman finished third in the race for the John Jacobs Trophy behind winner Paul Broadhurst and countryman Phillip Price, improving on his finishes of tenth in 2017 and seventh in 2016.
The 2018 season showed a clear improvement in Dodd’s game; his stroke average of 69.42 was more than two shots better than 2017’s 71.83, while his average position during his 18 events was 12.61, a huge improvement of 27.29 the previous year.
A relatively slow start to the campaign yielded four top 20 results from five starts, with back-to-back tied 12th finishes the highlight.
However, a tied 20th result at the Swiss Seniors Open acted as the prelude to Dodd’s third victory in as many seasons.
The Welshman opened with a stunning round of 64, eight under par, to take a four-shot lead at the WINSTONgolf Senior Open, before widening the advantage even further on Day Two with a 66, therefore heading into the final day with a seven-shot lead.
Waking up a year older, the birthday boy celebrated his 52nd birthday in style by carding a one under par 71 to win in Germany by six shots.
The Cardiff-born man was the stand-out player in Germany and his competitors knew they had a fight on their hands after his opening 64, but he insisted it was equally as important to continue hitting good shots over the weekend.
“You can’t win a tournament on Friday, you have to do it on Sunday, and when I needed to hit good shots, I hit good shots,” he said.
“I felt comfortable, but I had everything to lose to be honest, there was nothing to gain leading by seven shots.”
After finishing in a tie for 18th place at The Senior Open Presented by Rolex, Dodd embarked on a stunning run of six top tens in as many events, including runner-up finishes at the VTB Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior) and the European Tour Properties Senior Classic.
The latter of those tournaments, at Lighthouse Golf and Spa Resort, Bulgaria, could have been even better for Dodd, who held the lead with eight holes to play.
Overnight leader Magnus P Atlevi had relinquished the advantage with three bogeys during the front nine, meaning he and Dodd were neck-and-neck heading down the stretch.
With the Swede taking a one-shot lead into the 18th, Dodd knew he needed a birdie to at least force a play-off, but the 52 year old could only card a double bogey meaning he had to settle for second.
Finishing tenth at the Scottish Senior Open and tied 14th at both the Farmfoods European Senior Masters and the Paris Legends Championship followed his red-hot run before he returned to the top ten next time out.
Teeing it up at the Costa Blanca Benidorm Senior Golf Masters alongside the likes of Miguel Ángel Jiménez and José María Olazábal, Dodd finished in tied fifth, four shots behind Jiménez and Paul Streeter, who competed in a play-off for the title. Streeter came out on top, carding a birdie to the Spaniard’s par on the first extra hole.
Dodd was sitting pretty in third place on the Order of Merit as the Staysure Tour headed to the Indian Ocean for the end of season swing.
After fighting back from an opening 77 with rounds of 67-70 to finish tied 27th at the MCB Tour Championship – Mauritius, Dodd ended his campaign with his ninth and final top ten result of the year in Seychelles.
Playing on the paradise island of Praslin, Dodd signed off for the season with a tied seventh finish, five shots behind Roger Chapman, the eventual winner, and Phillip Price, who lost in a play-off.
With his best year on the over-50s scene to date now in the bank, Dodd will be full of confidence heading into the 2019 season and will undoubtedly be one to watch as he vies for the John Jacobs Trophy.