Golf: Porthcawl links lauded ‘one of the world’s best’ as Wales Open has a …

Former Ryder Cup star Barry Lane has lauded Royal Porthcawl ‘one of the finest links courses in world golf’ as he defends his Speedy Services Wales Senior Open crown on the Mid Glamorgan coast next week.

Lane, who celebrates his 53rd birthday later this month, won the last of his four Senior  crowns last August in Wales with a one-shot triumph over fellow Englishman Phillip Golding at Conwy Golf Club.

Now the five-time victor on the European Tour, will be joining fellow 1993 Ryder Cup winner Ian Woosnam, as the Senior Wales Open returns to Royal Porthcawl for the first time since  South African John Bland lifted the crown in June 2010, to pocket £75,000, with a one-shot victory over Paraguay’s Angel Franco

Lane was still a month away from making his Senior Tour bow back then, but simply cannot wait to test himself on the potentially treacherous Royal Porthcawl course – a year before the venue stages a first Major in Wales when it hosts the Senior Open Championship.

“Porthcawl is just one of the great links courses in the world,” said Lane, who was the runner-up in both the 2011 and 2012 Tour order of merit rankings.

“It will be a privilege to defend the Speedy Services Wales Senior Open there and it will also be great to get a really good look at the course before the Senior Open next year.”

If Lane is looking for any inspiration ahead of his title defence, he need only cast his mind to the final round of last year’s Wales Senior Open.

Standing on the par-four 17th fairway, Lane was just one stroke clear of playing partner  Golding when he produced a winning stroke worthy of any championship.

With 175 yards to the flag and the pressure pounding, the 52-year-old drew his four iron and struck a perfect blow, his ball piercing the through the air like an arrow towards the hole. The resultant six-inch tap-in enabled Lane to stroll down the 18th with a two-shot cushion as he closed out the fourth victory of his Tour career.

“Every time you win a tournament it is special,” said Lane. “But to win in that manner, having to hit that four iron when the pressure was really on and managing to pull it off was extremely satisfying.

“That is what we are still playing for. We are all still very competitive on the Senior Tour and when those moments come around in tournaments you realise how much you still want to win.

“Hopefully we can have a similar finish to the tournament this year and it would be great if I could play my way into contention again.”

While Lane contemplates defending his Wales Open crown and putting on a Royal show, another former European Tour professional is relishing the chance to test his game again against a star-studded field.

In his prime, Paul Mayo played alongside the great Jack Nicklaus in the Masters and partnered Colin Montgomerie in the Walker Cup.

Now, after nearly 17 years in the golfing wilderness, the Welshman is once again preparing to join some of the legends of game. The former Amateur Champion, who turned 50 last January, called time on his 16 year spell as the club professional at Newport Golf Club in November as he looks to return to the competitive game in the same year that Montgomerie also becomes eligible for the Senior Tour.

Health issues forced Mayo to retire from his attempt to secure a card at the Senior Tour qualifying school in January, but he remains confident that he can make an impact in 2013 after being given a sponsor’s invitation to Porthcawl.

“I really enjoyed my time at Newport but it was time to move on and joining the Senior Tour was always an ambition of mine,” said Mayo.

“I thought about it and decided it was something I’d like to have a go at, having previously played on the European Tour.

“I resigned as the head professional in November and it took me a few weeks to get over it, but it has now opened up new avenues for me and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

“It will be great to catch up with some old friends on the Senior Tour.

“I bumped into a few people at the Qualifying School and it was a bit strange seeing them all again. It was just a shame that I had to withdraw as I was going along quite nicely in the second round.

“I know I’ve got to feel my way back into it though, to see if that spark is still there.”

Mayo won the Welsh Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl in 1987 and while recent changes to the course, made ahead of it hosting the Senior Open Championship, mean it will present a different challenge to the one Mayo enjoyed success over 26 years ago, he is hoping his affinity for the famous links will help launch his Senior Tour career.

“I’ve played quite regularly at Royal Porthcawl over the years and it is a magnificent golf course,” he said.

“They have made a few changes, but in the wind it can be a monster.

“It’s always nice when you have played well around a particular course before and hopefully I can play well there again.”

As well as winning the Welsh Amateur in 1987, Mayo also landed the prestigious Amateur Championship at Prestwick, earning a spot in the Masters at Augusta National the following year where he played alongside 18-time Major champion Nicklaus.

“Teeing off with Jack Nicklaus on the first at The Masters – that’s quite scary,” he said

“Playing with Jack was just amazing.

“Don’t forget it was only two years since he won his sixth Green Jacket. And as much as you would like to play well, you would swap doing that for just having the experience of having done it – playing with Jack Nicklaus at Augusta. 

“There is a picture of Jack and I up in the clubhouse at Newport and it was mentioned in a speech when I left last year,” added Mayo, who played in six Open Championships.

“Some of the kids at the club didn’t even realise it was me with him! The game has changed a lot since then, but I’ve got some great memories.”

Having ended his career on The European Tour in 1996, Mayo is expecting to take time to readjust to the competitive game, but it is a challenge he is relishing.

“There are some top players on the Senior Tour, who are all highly motivated, and it gets tougher each year with a new crop,” he said.

 “I’m just going to dip my toe in carefully at first, but I’ve been waiting to get to this milestone and I can’t wait to give it a go.”

Entry to the Speedy Services Wales Senior Open from June 14-16 is free of charge to the general public, with car parking priced at £5.

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/other-sport/golf-porthcawl-links-lauded-one-4067028