TWO years after a back injury threatened to end his career, Australia’s Peter “Chook” Fowler has won the 2011 European Senior Tour Order of Merit.
In a dramatic final day of the season ending MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius, the 52 year old held off the challenge of former Ryder Cup player Barry Lane to win the money title.
Fowler fought back from consecutive double bogeys on the fifth and sixth holes at Constance Belle Mare Plage to finish the tournament in seventh position, his 13th top ten of a remarkably consistent campaign.
That was enough for him to end the year as Senior Tour Number One and lift the John Jacobs Trophy ahead of Lane, who was two shots back in a share of ninth.
Fowler is the third Australian to win the prestigious John Jacobs Trophy, following Noel Ratcliffe in 2000 and Ian Stanley in 2001
His winning cheque of €14, 814 took his earnings for 2011 to €302,327, meaning he finished the tour’s 20th anniversary season €32,154 clear of runner up Lane.
“It was a great tussle with Barry who also had two wins this season,” Fowler said.
“Fortunately when he had those two wins I finished second and third so I managed to stay close enough. The more the year went on, the more exhausted I was.
“Then I suffered some back problems again in Portugal in October so I was battling through towards the end of the season and it was good to see the job through.”
After struggling for two years with a disc problem in his back which happened in practice before his Senior Tour debut, Fowler won twice in 2011, capturing his maiden Senior Tour title in the ISPS Handa Senior World Championship in June before coming from seven shots back on the final day to win the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open in Switzerland the following month.
He was also runner up in the ISPS Handa Senior World Championship presented by Mission Hills China and the Casa Serena Open and tied second in the Van Lanschot Senior Open.
In total he finished inside the top ten in 13 of his 18 tour appearances in 2011, with nine of those inside the top five.
Fowler also won the 2011 Australian Senior PGA Championship in Sydney and will be back home this week contesting the JBWere Masters in Melbourne.
“I’ve played pretty solid and pretty consistent this year and been in there most weeks,” he said. “I still feel I have room for improvement though. There’s a lot of good players out here who I’m still learning from –Sam Torrance, Carl Mason and Ian Woosnam – they play so well and I have to pick the bits of their game and add them to mine.
“After the struggles that I’ve had over the years this really does mean a lot to me. It’s great to beat all of these great champions on the Senior Tour.”
Fowler played 519 events on The European Tour events in a career spanning 25 years, winning once in the 1993 BMW International Open when he held off Major Champions Ian Woosnam and Bernhard Langer. His best finish on the Order of Merit was 22nd in 1989, the year he also won the World Cup for Australia when he partnered Wayne Grady.
He joined the Senior Tour in 2009 and struggled initially with his back injury, finishing 76th on the Order of Merit that season after playing just four events. The injury sidelined him for 12 months but he returned to finish 29th last year and after a winter of hard gym work, Fowler returned stronger and began the season with a share of fifth in the ISPS Handa Australian Senior Open before only finishing outside the top ten five times in 18 events.
“The Order of Merit is across a 21 tournament stretch so it shows a high level of consistency,” he said. “I have to admit when Barry won in Scotland in August and people started talking about the Order of Merit it became quite gruelling. I knew, though, that if I stayed on my game I’d have a chance.”
Lane, who was the first person to congratulate Fowler on his triumph, also won twice in 2011, successfully defending the Cleveland Golf/Srixon Scottish Senior Open in August before winning his third Senior Tour title the following month at the Casa Serena Open.
He recorded six top five finishes in total and nine top ten finishes, ending the year with earnings of €271,173
“I was a bit aggressive toward the end today but I gave it my best and it was a great season,” said Lane. “It was great to be in contention for the John Jacobs Trophy. Peter has had a great year and he works so hard so it’s great for him to win the trophy. I really am pleased for him”
Scotland’s Andrew Oldcorn finished third in the Order of Merit on €188, 981 while Englishman Gary Wolstenholme moved past former Masters Champion Ian Woosnam into fourth position with earnings of €181,636.
Former Walker Cup Player Wolstenholme sealed the Rookie of the Year Award following nine top ten finishes in his first full season on the Senior Tour.
Tom Lehman victory
Former British Open Champion Tom Lehman sealed a wire-to-wire victory in the MCB Tour Championship after surviving a final round battle with David Frost.
The American carded a final round 71 for a 12 under par total of 204 to hold off South African Frost by a single stroke.
Lehman, who defeated Frost and Fred Couples in a play-off to win the 2010 US Senior PGA Championship, was making his debut in a regular European Senior Tour event and the victory was his fourth of 2011