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Mixed emotions for Lonard following impressive senior debut

(Photo: Getty Images)
Peter Lonard has tied for an impressive and encouraging share of third place on his debut appearance in senior golf, a final round of even par 71 at the Senior Open Championship at the Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Bridgend in Southern Wales seeing him finish three behind winner Bernhard Langer.

While it was an encouraging week for the New South Welshman, who turned 50 just two weeks ago, it will be a case of bitter / sweet for him as a three-putt par at the last cost him a share of second with Corey Pavin who himself holed a 25-foot putt just two minutes ahead of him for birdie at the last to claim second outright.

Lonard had a putt from just inside Pavin’s for eagle at the final hole to secure second place on his own but left his first putt 4 feet short and right and waited for Langer to putt from just outside of him as he would have been otherwise standing in Langer’s line.

Unfortunately, the putt would miss and instead of sharing second with Pavin he would tie for 3rd with Billy Andrade and Fred Couples, the latter of whom emerged from well off the 36 hole pace with weekend rounds of 66 and 68.

After such a shaky start at on Thursday, when dropping three shots in his opening three holes, Lonard recovered admirably and began the final round tied for 3rd and five shots behind Langer.

A bogey at the opening hole today was shaky way to start but Lonard then began to hit several high quality irons shots, failing to convert two very realistic chances for birdie at the 5th and for eagle at the 6th.

The putter did work at the par three 8th however when holing a lengthy birdie putt and he was then within three of Langer who had bogeyed the 3rd.

Lonard’s only other bogey at the 11th came in the middle of a squall but he did well to play the remaining holes in even par although his costly three-putt at the last was agonising.

Still, to have played with Langer and Pavin in today's final round and more than held his own will be encouraging for Lonard as he looks ahead to a possible senior career in Europe or the Champions Tour provided he can play his way on to that tour.

"No, I don't think so. I've been around the block a few times over the last 30 years," said Lonard when asked if his finish had exceeded expectations. "I know I can play all right. It's just a matter if the putter works or not. I love this sort of golf. You know, fell a bit short but I gave it my best and that's all I can do.

"I was really looking forward to coming over here. The Open Championship was always one of my favourite tournaments. I think the last one I played in was Hoylake in 2008 maybe I just love the way you have so many ways to play the game. You can hit it on the ground and you can flop it around the greens.

"There's so many shots, different ways to do the same thing. It's great, imaginative golf and I was really looking forward to coming here. I thought my game was pretty good. I was probably a little short on the punch shots. I haven't hit them for so long, I was definitely a bit rusty with them as far as control goes, but it was great to be out here.

"I hung in there. I think tee-to-green I was pretty good. The first two days, I putted beautifully. Yesterday and today, I really struggled with the pace, with the longer putts. Suppose I'm going to having to away and work on that, and hopefully improve next week."

Lonard was referring to the Scottish Senior Open in which he had been advised he would gain a start as a result of his great week in Wales and was then later told by the European Senior Tour he would not.

An entry mix up a few weeks ago for that event would mean he would miss out on getting his entry in on time. 

Of the other Australians, David McKenzie produced an impressive final round of 69 in what was his first outing in senior golf to finish in a share of 9th, Peter Fowler 15th, Mike Harwood 57th and Terry Price 81st.

McKenzie's week was enhanced even further by holing out for an ace at the par three 8th hole. 

Langer was relentless as he powered to his 10th major title on the Champions Tour and his 33rd title on that tour. He did open the door for his chasers with bogeys at the 3rd and 15th holes but while Pavin and Lonard both threatened on occasions he held them out to win by three over Pavin and by four over Lonard, Andrade and Couples.

"It obviously suits my game," said Langer when asked what is it about Royal Porthcawl that he likes given this is was his second Senior Open triumph there. 

"I don't know. But it's a fantastic links course and this year played totally different to three years ago. But it was a huge challenge with the weather conditions that we had, and the course played long and soft.I'm just very fortunate to pull out on top. I didn't feel very good earlier on. I had a sore throat for most of the week, and just thrilled to be up here again lifting this beautiful trophy.

The interviewer acknowledged the impressive nature of his win now that he is approaching 60.

"I'm trying to be an inspiration for the older guys and also for the younger generation be a role model. I strongly believe that you can still get better in your 40s, 50s and maybe even 60s, you obviously lose strength and length off the tee and all that, but you can make up for it by having a stronger mind or better technique or better short game, which is all part of the game."

The European Seniors Tour now moves to the Renaissance Club in North Berwick for the Scottish Senior Open while the Champions Tour plays the 3M Championship in Minneapolis.




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