Clark Dennis cannot wait to return to Italy this week as he bids to become the first back-to-back winner of the Senior Italian Open presented by Villaverde Resort.
The American claimed his first over-50s victory at Golf Club Udine during a remarkable rookie season on the Staysure Tour, where he won twice and topped the Order of Merit to claim the coveted John Jacobs Trophy.
Last season’s Senior Italian Open was cut short to 36 holes due to severe rain and thunderstorms, and the champion was decided in a play-off where the 18th hole was shortened to a 162-yard par three.
Dennis and Australian Peter Fowler headed to the re-designed 18th hole after play was abandoned as they reached the fourth fairway. Both players found the green with their tee shots but it was the American who rolled in his birdie putt from 15 feet to take his first Staysure Tour title.
With the weather looking far better than last season’s storms, Dennis will get the chance to defend his memorable victory at Golf Club Udine – one of four European Tour Destinations which will host the Staysure Tour this year.
“I’m really looking forward to the first tournament I get to defend. It’s such a beautiful place with friendly people and I’m raring to go,” he said.
“We knew on the second day that there would be the chance we wouldn’t play the third, so I tried to treat the second day like the last day just in case.
“I happened to birdie 17 and was tied with Peter after the two days. We went out on the third day and tried to play but there was no way we would be able to finish.
“Peter and I both hit good shots in the play-off, I just happened to make the putt - that’s golf sometimes.
“I felt really fortunate to leave Italy with the win after what happened the week before. It was a great feeling to get that win.”
The 52 year old was in charge at the Travis Perkins Masters the week before his success in Italy, but was three over par on the final day as he saw his hopes slip away and take a share of second.
However, his run of form from September to the end of the season was outstanding as he recorded five top five results in six tournaments. That red-hot streak shot him to the top of the Order of Merit and saw him claim the John Jacobs Trophy at the conclusion of the MCB Tour Championship.
A similar run of results to last year could help him put pressure on the early pacesetters at the top of the Staysure Tour Order of Merit. Like last year, Dennis is well aware of the momentum he could generate with several strong results.
“With all my tournaments I’ll try to get on a little roll like I did last year, that would be great,” he said. “We’re all looking for that run and you never know when it will happen. If you get a hot putter and make a few putts next thing you know you’ve made a couple of top five finishes and sneak in a win, and that’s what makes for a good year because you’re not going to play well all the time.”
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