Wesselingh retains trophy after six-hole play-off

PAUL Wesselingh successfully defended his title in the MCB Tour Championship, overcoming Barry Lane in a record-equalling six-hole play-off, as the 2014 European Senior Tour season reached a dramatic conclusion in Mauritius.

Wesselingh, the former Chorley  and Northenden pro, had needed only to par the 18th hole to retain the title in regulation play, but he left his 20ft birdie putt four foot short, then watched his next attempt horseshoe round the cup.

That meant he dropped back to nine under par, signing for a closing round of 69, to finish level with fellow Englishman Lane, who had birdied three of the final four holes for a round 67 to set the clubhouse target.

The pair then produced some superb golf in the play-off to each birdie the 18th hole five times in a row – Wesselingh somehow getting up and down after flirting with the water on the left of the green on the third extra hole – before Lane, who had been struggling with injury and illness at the start of the week, eventually succumbed on the sixth return trip, missing a four foot par putt, allowing Wesselingh to tap in for victory.

The epic battle equalled the record for the longest play-off in the history of the Senior Tour, matching Gordon J Brand’s six-hole defeat of his namesake Gordon Brand Jnr in the De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship in 2008, and Wesselingh admitted it was a gruelling way to retain the trophy.

“I feel like I’ve been through the ringer,” said Wesselingh. “I’m just delighted and relieved to win. I was shaking on the 18th green in regulation play. Nerves just got to me, so to finally finish it off is fantastic.

“I was disappointed when I came off after normal play. I felt I had done enough. I needed to be mentally strong and David Frost, who I was playing with, said some nice words which helped me to focus. I’ve struggled on the par fives all week and barely had any birdies, so to have five in a row in the play-off is amazing.

“It’s wonderful to win this title again though and I do feel very proud.”

Twelve months ago, Wesselingh claimed the tournament title at Constance Belle Mare Plage by five strokes to win the 2013Senior Tour Order of Merit crown, winning the Senior Tour Shot of the year with his stunning approach to the final hole. While runaway leader Colin Montgomerie had already secured the John Jacobs Trophy this time, Wesselingh ensured it was a happy return to the scene of his greatest golfing memory, albeit in a less comfortable fashion than a year ago.

It also meant the finish to the Senior Tour season mirrored the finale to The European Tour campaign last month, when Rory McIlroy had already secured the Race to Dubai crown following four victories, including two Major Championships, and Henrik Stenson successfully defended his title in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.

Wesselingh had already tasted play-off success in the 2014 campaign, beating Senior Open Champion Bernhard Langer on home soil in the WINSTONgolf Senior Open, and the long term club professional added the scalp of another Ryder Cup player in Lane for his seventh Senior Tour title.

“I’d rather not have to do it through a play-off, but to beat Bernhard Langer and now Barry Lane, both Ryder Cup players and great players, is fantastic,” said the 52 year old, who ends the season in sixth place on the Order of Merit. “I’ve always said I feel really honoured to play with these guys, I really do mean that. They are legends, so it is very special.”

Just as Wesselingh had a golden opportunity to win in regulation play, Lane could conceivably have taken the title before the play-off, having missed a three foot birdie chance on the 17th and an eight foot eagle putt on the final hole. Instead, he had to settle for finishing runner up for the second time in three years.
“He gave me a chance by three-putting the last in normal play, so I hadn’t expected to be in a play-off, but once I was, it was a great play-off,” said Lane, who ends the year third on the Order of Merit. “There were a lot of quality shots in the first five holes, but on the sixth I just didn’t have a good lie to chip my third shot so left it short and hit two good putts, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“I felt so bad at the start of the week I nearly didn’t play, and I have to admit I was feeling tired at the end. When you think I had five penalty shots this week, going in the water four times, and missed putts on the last two holes in regulation play, it could easily have been my week, but congratulations to Paul, who played so well.”

South African David Frost, who took a one shot lead into the final round, finished with a round of 71 for an eight under par total to finish in third position, his sixth consecutive top five finish over the Legend Course, having won twice and finished runner up twice.

Frenchman Jean-François Remesy and Englishman Andrew Sherborne both posted rounds of 68 to share fourth position on seven under par, while Montgomerie signed off a superb 2014 with a 68 of his own to finish sixth for the second year in a row.

That maintained the 2010 Ryder Cup captain’s impressive record of finishing inside the top ten in every Senior Tour event he has played in 2014, winning four times, including two Major Championships, and finishing runner up once. Montgomerie was presented with John Jacobs Trophy for winning the Senior Tour Order of Merit by a record margin of €388,739 from second place Rick Gibson, with record earnings of €624, 543.

 

 

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