Peter Senior in action at Coolum in the Australian PGA Championship this month.
Peter Senior in action at Coolum in the Australian PGA Championship this month. Chris McCormack

Senior playing at Fiducian Legends

IT’S been a long time since Australian tour veterans Michael Harwood and Peter Senior have been deemed golf rookies.

But, apart from being the winner and runner-up of the Australian Senior Open championship in Perth in July, it’s the tag they’ll carry into the opening round today of the $80,000 Fiducian Legends Australian PGA Championship at Byron Bay.

Harwood and Senior are among 73 professionals signed up to play alongside 120 amateur senior players in the three-day championship.

They will play 18 holes today and tomorrow before the top 10 amateur players are seeded into the professionals’ 18-hole draw on Sunday.

Neither Harwood nor Senior has played in the Byron Bay tournament in its previous two years, with both qualifying for the senior ranks only earlier this year.

Senior had not even laid a club on the fairways until yesterday afternoon when he squeezed in a practice round with his caddy just minutes before the first nine holes, which revert to the back nine for the tournament, were closed for maintenance on the greens.

Apart from mentioning that he had never played the course, Senior’s only comment was about ‘being caught in traffic all the way back to the highway’.

Any longer in the traffic jam would also have denied him his only practice session.

Senior graduated to the tour when he turned 50 in July and quickly made his presence felt as runner-up to Harwood in a play-off to the open championship at the Royal Perth Golf Club.

He then focused his attention on the United States, winning the Champions Tour qualifying school and receiving a full card for the 2010 season.

Harwood has had a little longer to slot into the ranks and experienced success on the other side of the world after the Australian Open, being named the European Seniors Tour Rookie of the Year after finishing ninth on the money list.

He rounded off the season by claiming the Castellon Senior Tour championship by three strokes – his first tournament victory for 18 years.

Harwood accumulated more than $75,000 in prizemoney on the Australian Legends Tour, almost double that of his nearest rival.

Today they join the likes of former Australian PGA Seniors champions Noel Ratcliffe, Michael Ferguson, John Clifford and David Merriman, twice Australian PGA champion Randall Vines and former Australian Open champion Rodger Davis, from the Gold Coast.

Byron Bay Golf Club tournament director Mark Wilson yesterday said the club was ‘more than pleased’ with the condition of the course in the continuing dry conditions.

“More important is the impression we’ve given our new sponsors,” he said.

“Fiducian Legends were most impressed with what could be done on a regional country scale.”

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