Golf: Mark Mouland set to live American dream with legends of … – WalesOnline

WHILE Rhys Davies, Bradley Dredge, Stephen Dodd and Liam Bond were getting red lines through their work at European Tour qualifying school in Spain this week, one Welshman was contemplating teeing off with legends of the game in America next year.

Because 51-year-old Vale of Glamorgan-born Mark Mouland has cracked qualifying school in the States, being just one of five players to emerge from Eagle Trace Golf Club in Florida with a potentially priceless Champions Tour card for 2013.

It means Mouland will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Bernhard Langer, Tom Kite and Hale Irwin after his seven-under-par four-round aggregate in the Sunshine State saw him as the only European player to win a card.

Among those trailing in his wake were 1996 US Open champion Steve Jones, former Ryder Cup ace Barry Lane and Argentine star Eduardo Romero, while a number of household names never even made it to final qualifying.


“It’s the third time I’ve been to qualifying school in America. The first time I finished eighth, the second time ninth and now third,” said Mouland, who heads out to Mauritius today to play in the MCB Open next week on the European Senior Tour.

“I’ve played 11 events over there in the two seasons and I was going back and forth so much I wanted to get a Tour card so badly.

“I managed to do it this month and, just five cards on offer, they don’t make it easy as there must have been close to 400 players having a go. So to get one was an incredible achievement.

“I played seven events this season in America and made the cut each time and I just love it over there. The course set-up is totally different to here.

“And for the majority of weeks you get a brand new courtesy car to use, a Cadillac, Lexus or something similar.

“The weather is perfect, the courses pristine and every week you are mixing with the best of the best; Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer, while Tom Kite and Hale Irwin were my heroes starting off in the game and now I’m having lunch and playing golf with them.

“These guys can still play fantastic golf and we were talking about Bernhard Langer the other week and we reckon he could still keep his card on the European Tour and probably the PGA Tour.

“He’s in his mid-50s and as we nearly saw with Tom Watson at Turnberry a couple of years ago, I think a senior player will win a Major championship before long. I’m convinced because we’re stronger and fitter than seniors used to be and with the modern equipment the ball goes just as far.”

Mouland has already cashed in on earning a conditional card this year, playing seven events on the Champions Tour, making the cut in all of them and finishing seventh in the ATT Championship in Texas.

Ironically, that finish raked in close to £40,000, the same amount Mouland pocketed in 1988 for winning the KLM Dutch Open on the European Tour.

That was the second and final victory Mouland enjoyed among the big-hitters of Europe, his other success coming in the 1986 Car Care Plan International.

After losing his Tour card at the end of 1999 he regained his playing rights for 2001 after gaining a 26th card at the qualifying school and made sure he didn’t require a return visit by finishing fifth in the Smurfit European Open before losing out again for the 2003 season.

“The last few years in my forties I’ve almost been wishing my life away waiting to play on the Senior Tour, but when it came I was thinking ‘oh no, I’m 50’,” added Mouland.

“I’m one of those players who say, ‘have clubs, will play’. I’ll go anywhere for a game.

“After I lost my card I played on the Challenge Tour for a couple of seasons, then I played on the Asian Tour for a couple of years, and last year I played a lot of different mini tours and pro-ams in the UK. So I’ve kept very busy and am still playing competitive golf, which I think is a good thing.

“As long as I could play on a tour somewhere, I just kept playing. I’m the old boy playing with all the young blokes! It’s about keeping active and staying competitive and hopefully that’s stood me in good stead for life on the Senior Tour.

“I also help organise the British Par-three Championship, which has gone from strength to strength. Tony Jacklin has been involved and some of the Senior Tour players like Carl Mason. It’s lovely to be part of that and watch it grow, and it’s fun because it’s getting together with all my old mates.”

Mouland claimed his maiden European Senior Tour victory and his first win in 23 years after he came from four shots behind to snatch the Belas Clube de Campo Senior Open de Portugal title with a four-under-par closing round of 68. He ended his rookie season in 2011 with three consecutive top-10 finishes to end the year in 14th position on the Order of Merit.

It was nearly all very different for Mouland, however, as he was involved in a head-on motorway car accident in 1986, shortly after he won his first European Tour title.

Fortunately, he bounced back very quickly, finishing a career-best 16th on the Order of Merit in 1987 and winning the KLM the following year.

“I broke both feet and ankles in the crash,” he said. “I wasn’t out for that long – only about six weeks recuperating and in plaster – but at the time I did wonder whether I’d ever play again.

“It took an hour and a half to cut me out of the car and my face was badly cut up, but thankfully I’ve never had any repercussions from it. I’m lucky to have had a very interesting life and career so far. I’ve travelled the world doing something I love.

“I won the British Boys’ Championship in 1976 when I was 15, which still stands as the record youngest winner, I’ve won a couple of European Tour titles and lost a couple of play-offs, and I’ve won a couple of Mauritius Opens.

“I represented Wales in the Dunhill Cup seven times and eight times in the World Cup, which were great experiences.

“It looks like I’m not going to be able to play much in Europe next summer apart from the British Open and it looks like I might be able to get away with competing in the Wales Senior Open at Royal Porthcawl.

“I’ve got to play it by ear as I want to play in Europe and America, but I can’t do both.

“I haven’t played Porthcawl for years and a lot of my friends are still there in Penarth.”

But for now it’s the Hawaiian coast and not the shores of Penarth and Porthcawl that’s foremost in Mouland’s mind as the Champions Tour tees off in the Pacific idyll in mid-January with the Mitsubishi Electric Championship.


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