Wesselingh in dreamland after PGA Seniors triumph

10/06/2012

Midland PGA professional Paul Wesselingh outshone some of European golf's biggest names to land the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship at his first attempt.

The Kedleston Park PGA professional fired a brilliant five-under-par 67 including four successive birdies from the 12th to snatch victory at De Vere Slaley Hall by just one shot from defending champion Andrew Oldcorn and Sweden's Anders Forsbrand with former Ryder Cup captain Mark James in fourth place.

It was also a good day for PGA pros Peter Smith (Deeside) and Steve Cipa (South Essex) who tied fifth alongside Peter Fowler.

But all the plaudits were for Wesselingh celebrating his maiden European Senior Tour title at just the third time of trying.

The 50-year-old, who pocketed a £40,000 cheque to move up to second in the Order of Merit, admitted it had been a crazy month since announcing his arrival on the senior circuit just under a month ago with a share of second at the Mallorca Senior Open.

"It is a crazy start to my seniors' career, I just can't believe it," said Wesselingh who followed up his second place with 21st at the US Senior PGA Championship and joint seventh at the Benahavis Senior Classic plus a victory in the Senior PGA Professional Championship squeezed in too.

"It's fantastic to win the PGA Seniors Championship. I had a quick look at the trophy and there are some fantastic names on there and now I'm on there.

"It has been a long time coming, I've spent four or five years working hard for this. I do hit a lot of balls and also keep myself fit and hopefully I sort of semi-deserve it."

Wesselingh began the final day four shots adrift of overnight leader James but picked up two early birdies. James meanwhile led until tumbling out of contention with bogeys on 14 and 18 as the eventual champion began an incredible burst of birdies from the 12th, stung by another encounter with the par five hole which he double bogeyed during his first round.

"I was so angry after bogeying 11 that I seemed to birdie everything, good length putts too, they weren't short ones," said Wesselingh.

"I had a three footer on 12, 13 was probably 20 footer, 14 was about the same and 15 was five or six feet. I'd also had a long birdie putt on five, about 30 foot, and on six I chipped in."

Wesselingh's 67, added to opening rounds of 72 and 71 in the rain-shortened event, left him six under for the tournament with Oldcorn and Forsbrand, both playing in the last group, needing to birdie the last to force a play-off which neither managed.

Forsbrand had warmed to the task with successive birdies on 15 and 16 to get to six under but handed the initiative back with a bogey on 17.

"It was a very good defence all in all," said Oldcorn, who won the 2001 PGA Championship on The European Tour. "The start I had put me a little bit behind the eight ball but I played pretty well.

"Congratulations to Paul though, he's had a fantastic year so far. He's gone out and shot four birdies in a row on the back nine. That wins you the golf tournament. I hit a great putt on the last which I thought was going in, but overall I'm pleased with how I defended the title."

Wesselingh's win has earned him entry to the Senior Open Championship at Turnberry and next year's US PGA Senior Championship and he revealed it was his appearance at last month's US PGA Senior , where he finished 21st, which had given him a confidence boost.

"I didn't play particularly well the first three days but scored well but the last round when I shot 66 was the best I've ever played. To come 21st in a major and play the standard I did was incredible."

With the biggest prize of his professional golfer career looming, the six-time PGA Cup player kept a cool head, courtesy of some past near misses.

"I knew I was in a good situation but didn't get nervous," he said. "I remember playing the PGA Professional Championship in 2005 and I couldn't feel the putter when I stood over a two foot putt to win it and missed. I won the year after and I don't seem to get nervous anymore, may be because I have a bit more experience."

With a week off, the father of three is looking forward to going home to see the members at Kedleston Park.

"Kedleston Park have been superb. That was a key thing for me. When I went for my card they said they wanted me to go for it and when I got my card they said we want you to play everything.

"And the members have been brilliant, my phone will be crazy when I turn it on. I'm pleased I've got a week off to go and see them."
Wesselingh's victory sees him follow in the footsteps of DJ Russell, winner of the PGA Seniors in 2010, who he also succeeded as head pro at Kedleston Park.

"DJ has been incredibly supportive, he helped me a lot in the first few weeks on tour," he said.

"He was one of the first few people I played with in Mallorca and he is so relaxed. I also knew Bob Cameron, who I played PGA Cup with, and everyone I have played with on Tour has been so supportive, coming along and congratulating me, I feel one of them now."

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