By Brian O’Hare
NEW ZEALAND golfer Simon Owen has only played two games of golf in the past six months and arrived in Australia battling the flu but still managed a top class performance at the Richmond Golf Club this week.
The 63 year old Owen – runner up to Jack Nicklaus at the 1978 British Open – won a playoff over Australia’s Michael Harwood to win the 2014 Australian Senior PGA Championship at his first attempt.
Owen (72) tied Harwood (69) at 2-under the card in windy conditions at Richmond in Sydney’s western suburbs then promptly put a three wood drive on the green when they replayed the par four 18th.
The Kiwi missed his eagle chance from about 25 feet but when Harwood missed a 15 foot birdie chance from the fringe it was all over.
“I’m ecstatic to win this tournament. There are some great names on this trophy and it’s an honour to now be alongside them,” Owen said later.
Owen revealed he had almost pulled out of the 54 hole tournament during the second round because he was feeling so unwell and disoriented , particularly when he realised he had hit an approach shot early on aiming at the wrong green.
“To shoot [a par] 70 yesterday [Friday] feeling as badly as I did kept me in the tournament,” he said. He led the field after the first round with a 4-under 66.
Owen started the final round Saturday slowly with a bogey on the first but improved as the round progressed.
“Once I got into the playoff I felt fantastic because I have got such a good playoff record,” he said. “I just never lose playoffs.”
Owen has won the New Zealand PGA Senior Championship twice, has two wins on the European Senior Tour and two on the European Tour, including winning the 1974 German Open, again with a birdie on the first playoff hole.
Harwood wasn’t that happy with his birdie attempt that missed by smidgin in the playoff but will no doubt be delighted to have scored a spot in the upcoming Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast.
Accepting the runners-up trophy the lanky Victorian golfer was full of praise for Owen, particularly since he had played so little golf in recent times … and in particular his drive to within 25ft on the 248 metre 18th hole.
“I think he’s got Alzheimer’s because he’s forgotten how good he is,” Harwood said. “ To play a shot like that on the last hole … you’ve got to be kidding.”
Terry Price (71), Tim Elliot (71) and Alan Cooper (71) all finished one shot outside the playoff on 1-under.
This is the second year the $70,000 event has been played at the Richmond Golf Club and it was again an outstanding success. It is likely the championship will return again in 2015 with hopes the prize purse can be bumped up to $100,000
“Everything about this tournament was fantastic and we were delighted to be here for a second consecutive year,” said Andy Rogers, PGA Legends Tour Coordinator.
Australian Senior PGA Championship Leaderboard