Waltham Windmill golfer Stephen Bennett ensures Senior Tour spot
STEPHEN Bennett is preparing to take on golfing greats Colin Montgomerie and Miguel-Angel Jimenez after a superb display booked his 2013 European Senior Tour spot.
The Waltham Windmill golfer headed to Pestana Golf Resort in Portugal targeting a top-14 finish to claim his card for the year.
Scores of 72, 71, 69 and 70 ensured he did it in style, finishing equal seventh on two-under for the Qualifying School event.
That result means the 53-year-old will automatically qualify for most of this year’s tournaments on the Tour for golfers aged 50 and over.
And that could see Bennett pitted against the likes of Ryder Cup heroes Montgomerie and Jimenez when the action begins in June.
“The key thing is that I’m guaranteed to be in most events, whereas if I hadn’t qualified as high up I’d have probably only played one or two tournaments this year,” Bennett said.
“You’ve got to be in it to win it, so my performance in Portugal was very pleasing.
“Around 190 competitors from all over the world started out at the Qualifying School two weeks earlier.”
The man who landed a European Tour title at the Tunisian Open in 1985 continued: “There’s more players entering now, and a lot of fantastic amateurs are joining the Tour, which is driving the standard up all the time.
“And we’ve now got the likes of Colin Montgomerie and Miguel-Angel Jimenez turning 50 this year.
“Monty will play in the Senior British Open and will probably compete in a few other opens on the Tour as well, so there are a lot of major players getting involved.
“That’s good for the profile of the Tour but makes it even tougher for the rest us!”
It wasn’t completely plain sailing for Bennett – on or off the course – who needed two birdies over the final four holes to achieve his fine result.
And North East Lincolnshire’s recent big freeze didn’t help Bennett’s preparations either.
“With four holes to play, level par was 14th place and I was at level par, so it would have been touch and go,” he explained.
“I birdied 15 and 16 and parred the last two, so it was a great finish for me.
“Even though I’ve been in that position many times before on the European Tour, you’ve still got to do it on the day.
“One event can make your whole year, like with Cleethorpes golfer Holly Clyburn and her Qualifying event for the Ladies European Tour in December.”
He added: “I didn’t leave until three days before the start of qualifying and because of the snow I hadn’t played for two weeks!
“So I cleared two metres of snow on the practice ground just to hit some wedges because I was getting withdrawal symptoms.
“That was it! That was the sum of my preparation for the Qualifying School, so I was absolutely delighted with how I played.”