PAUL Wesselingh was a 33-1 outsider five months ago when he closed out with a late birdie barrage to win the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship at De Vere Slaley Hall.
Now he has been named European Senior Tour Rookie of the Year after six other top-ten finishes so far in a spectacular first season.
He’s fifth in the Order of Merit heading into the final event, next week’s MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius which will also feature Matfen Hall’s John Harrison, ranked 35th.
“I’m living the dream,” said Wesselingh, an unassuming and fitness conscious Derbyshire club pro who never figured on the European Tour.
“The win at Slaley crept up on me really, rather than me being a front-runner. I managed to put a run of birdies together on the back nine and all of a sudden I’d won.
“I shall definitely be defending the title next year. Slaley Hall is a good test of golf – you have to think your way round and position your shots.
“And I was lucky with the weather. For some reason I’ve always played well in bad weather and that last day at Slaley was miserable.”
But it is unlikely Wesselingh will be defending the title at Slaley.
Their rotten luck in terms of bad weather often coinciding with big events – it is the only club ever to have had an entire European Tour event washed out – has contributed to a likely change of scenery.
An announcement is expected soon that the 2013 Seniors Championship will tee off at another De Vere Club venue – Mottram Hall, Cheshire – on June 6.
Slaley, meanwhile, have hosted and generously supported a Barry Golightly Memorial Golf Day and dinner. This was in memory of a former Slaley club secretary and raised £1,750 for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
Golightly died last year aged 60 after a gruelling series of major and dehabilitating illnesses and his widow, Lynda, instigated and helped to organise a tournament which brought together golfers from Slaley and Golightly’s former club, South Moor.
In the early days at Moor, Golightly and brother Gilbert played successfully together for Durham County Juniors.
Barry was a finalist in the American Golf National Matchplay Championship and, with his friend and partner Doug Ellison, won the Portugolfe National Open Amateur Pairs Championship in 2002.
Although Golightly relished the cut and thrust of competitive golf and was an renowned expert on the CONGU handicapping system he understood that, above all, golf is supposed to be fun.
He would have been pleased that money raised in his name was from a light hearted tournament in that players bought ‘Charity Mulligans’ which allowed them to replay some of their more errant shots. John Duffy won the men’s competition with Elaine Gray capturing the ladies’ prize.