By Brian O’Hare
PGA journeyman Darryl Purchase wasn’t immediately accepting his sudden elevation in status after winning his first big tournament in 30 years of trying on Sunday.
Purchase was just coming to terms with the fact he would be getting his name on a trophy featuring a number of golfing luminaires, headed by the great Lee Trevino, and the rest of it hadn’t quite sunk in.
His come from behind win at the 2013 Australian Senior PGA Championship at the Richmond Golf Club in Western Sydney meant he was expected to shortly hop on a plane for the Gold Coast to contest the Australian PGA Championship with the likes of Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler and Brandt Snedeker.
Expressing some doubts to the crowd at the official presentation that he maybe wouldn’t be able to make the RAVC Royal Pines because of a prior Legends Tour commitments, there was an immediate response.
“You’re going,” he was told in no uncertain terms.
Purchase had just shot a 3-under 67 in brutally gusting winds that saw most of a field containing some of Australia’s golfing greats going backwards.
The New South Welshman had started the day in the third last threesome, with the winner expected to come from the final grouping of overnight leader Kym Olsen and close chasers Michael Clayton and David Merriman.
Thanks to a secure supply of recycled water, the Richmond course is an oasis of green in an otherwise brown landscape, but gusting, hot south westerly winds were whipping up the dust and making scoring difficult for everyone.
Olsen, who has been the star of the Legends Tour since his highly successful rookie season last year, looked to have the tournament in the bag, particularly when he birdied the 17th to return to 1-over, only for everyone present to learn that Purchase had just birdied the last to finish on even.
Olsen needed a birdie on the last to force a playoff but a slightly wayward tee shot and a large tree ended his chances of yet another senior tour victory.
For Purchase, the moment couldn’t have been sweeter. His even finish after 54 holes gave him a two stroke victory over Olsen, with Merriman (72) and Russell Swanson (72) tied third on 3-over.
Wayne Grady (68), Terry Price (73) and Graeme Cheshire (70) tied for third on four over while first round joint leader Clayton didn’t have a happy back nine, finishing outright sixth on 5-over.
“I’m over the moon,” a delighted Purchase said. “Thirty years to get a title, it’s a long time and now I’ve got one.”
Purchase said he had “played a bit of tour stuff in the 80’s and early 90’s”, winning a number of pro-ams and some NSW Order of Merit events, but nothing major.
“I have always wanted my name on a trophy with some iconic names on it because I love the history of the game. To have my name on there is really special,” he said.
Purchase until recently had worked for the PGA as a tour coordinator before taking a big career gamble.
“I turned 50 in March this year,” he said. “I’ve always been a golf tragic and love to play the game, so I decided to give that away and have a crack at playing the senior tour. I was lucky enough to pick up a part time job casual at Bowral Golf Club and they have let me come and go as I please which is fantastic.”
A bent wedge and a friendly tree help secure an unlikely win
Purchase started his final round five behind Olsen but still had his sights set on an unlikely win.
“I was talking to Bruce my caddy and we said 66 would probably be a great score and would probably go close. We knew the wind was going to get up so anything under par would be good.”
“I was fairly pedestrian on the front nine, I birdied the first and bogied the ninth so I turned square.”
“I made a great birdie on the 12th, the par three and another on the 13th. They were straight back into the wind so I was pretty happy with those.”
Probably the turning point of the tournament came on the 17 where his drive ended up behind a tree (pictured).
“I had a full swing but no follow through. I tried to punch my wedge and hook it around the tree and I bent my wedge … which won’t matter much now.”
He got up and down for an important par.
“I got a bit lucky on the last. I tried to hit a three wood which I thought was the best club to get down here and get close and I blocked it a little right and it clipped a tree and went back into the fairway, so that was a good break. I hit my sand iron to about 18 inches for the birdie. Purchase at that stage still wasn’t sure how he was fairing against Olsen.
“I didn’t really have a clue. Julia my partner was telling me at different times that I was even with him, then I was one in front. I felt I needed to make birdie up the last to have any kind of chance. I even thought the three would only just get me into a playoff.”
“Unfortunately, for Kym he looked like he got unlucky on the last and ended up the backside of a tree.”
Purchase said he just felt “nervous” when he realised he had won.
“I was really nervous. I have been nervous most of the afternoon but I’m sort of relaxed now so it’s good.”
Getting his name on that trophy with the likes of Trevino, Senior, Fowler, Dunk, Harwood, Merriman and Gale was even better.
“I’m very happy to have taken this out in such a really good field. I suppose the only two contenders from Australia missing were Peter Fowler and Peter Senior, so it’s terrific.”
Olsen “gave it his best shot”
Olsen was unlucky not to add to his growing list of Legends Tour wins but was philosophic about his runner up finish.
“You try to give it your best shot,” he said. “I had to make birdie at the last so I tried to hit a shot that probably I wasn’t capable of hitting so that’s just the way it goes.”
“[His drive ending up wedged behind a tree] was pretty much unplayable but under the circumstances you’ve just got to try and hammer something out and maybe get lucky, and I didn’t get lucky, that’s just the way it is.
“We didn’t know Darryl had such a great round and we didn’t find out to the very last hole that he was actually one ahead of us. I would have liked to have known that a tad earlier. I thought it was pretty much between myself and Dave (Merriman who made a late run with birdies on 16 and 17.)
“That’s the way it goes and we love coming to play in these events and to test your skills against the best players. Sometimes you come out in front and sometimes you don’t.”
Tournament director Phil Boulton was celebrating a very successful event.
“The course was fantastic, the pros really loved being here and we’ll be happy to come back any time to Richmond Golf Club. The guys had a fantastic time on the course,” Boulton said.
More photos to come.Australian PGA Senior Championship Final Leaderboard