French golf legend Jean van de Velde cannot hide his excitement ahead of tomorrow's first round at the Senior Open Hauts de France, which he is hosting at Golf d’Arras.
The 1999 Ryder Cup player, who joined the Staysure Tour in 2016 after turning 50, is the first of three players taking on a hosting role at a tournament on this year’s International Schedule.
“It’s a very proud moment for me,” he said. “It’s nice to be part of something that helps the Staysure Tour grow. We are lucky to have great partners here and an owner, Philippe Delecroix, who was very keen on exploring what kind of tournament we could bring here.
“After we decided to go with a Staysure Tour event, we’ve had great support and I’m grateful that the players have been as supportive as they have.”
Teeing it up this week in northern France are no fewer than three Major Champions in 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie, who defeated van de Velde in a play-off at Carnoustie, two-time Masters Tournament winner José María Olazábal and fellow Masters champion Ian Woosnam. Lawrie is making his first appearance in a regular Staysure Tour event this week.
Joining the trio are seven additional Ryder Cup players, including 2014 European Captain Paul McGinley.
“I’ve got a lot of friends around who have supported the tournament and supported me,” said van de Velde. “Not just the Major Champions but people like Roger Chapman, Phillip Price, Stephen Dodd and the rest of the field. I’m delighted they said they were happy to come here and play.
“It shows the camaraderie we have on this Tour. It’s very competitive; a large majority of us come from the European Tour so we know how difficult it is to start golf tournaments and sustain them. We know if there is no support from players then it can be difficult.
“We want to grow this event, so year two will be very different. But I’m sure with the players here and live television coverage on Sunday, the first year will be a success.”
Van de Velde will begin his first round in the company of Olazábal and Woosnam at 09:35 local time, with Dan Olsen, Nick Job and Gary Wolstenholme striking the first shots of the day at 08:30.
The final round of the Senior Open Hauts de France will be broadcast live on Golf+ in France on Sunday from 16:00.