Paul Wesselingh (pictured by Peter Harrington) is targeting a return to winning ways in the English Senior Open at Rockliffe Hall this week after an inspiring pre-tournament pro-am appearance alongside a trio of recovering armed forces veterans.
Reigning European Senior Tour Number One Wesselingh has had a somewhat slow start to the 2014 season after winning the John Jacobs Trophy in emphatic fashion last year, but said the experience of playing with Jason Wilkes, Gez Almond and Paul Nichol from the Help for Heroes Phoenix House Recovery Centre in nearby Catterick was the perfect preparation.
“It is very inspiring,” said Wesselingh, who lies 28th in the Senior Tour Order of Merit currently with season nearing the halfway stage this week in County Durham. “They’ve obviously been through an awful lot and it’s good to see them having fun and enjoying it. It’s a great experience for them and for me.
“It does put things in perspective listening to some of the stories they have been telling me, you don’t realise what these guys go through.
“All those little missed putts, or mistakes, they mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. I’ve got a nephew in the armed forces and he’s been over in Iraq and I’ve seen the pictures and heard the things they’ve experienced and when you think about that you realise that golf is just a game.”
Veteran Wilkes, a former Royal Engineer who was wounded in Iraq in 2006, commented: “It’s been more of a high-level lesson, Paul has been great! It’s the taking part that counts, like they say, and showing other guys out there with disabilities, mental health issues, PTSD or whatever it is, get yourself out there and take part in a wonderful event like this.”
Wesselingh won his first of five Senior Tour events in the North East of England when he triumphed in the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship at De Vere Slaley Hall in Northumberland in 2012 and the Liverpudlian feels his game could be set to peak as he bids for another victory in the region this week.
“I felt I played alright last week in Scotland but the weather just got on top of me a bit over the weekend,” he continued.
“But my game is coming back after a difficult start. I suppose at the start of the year I had a lot of expectations from other people as well as myself but that’s how things go.
“Golf is a fickle game; you don’t know how you are going to play and sometimes that is not even down to preparation.
“But I’m confident. I’ve got plenty of time and I feel like I’m starting to hit the ball well again, find those putts, and hopefully that can come together this week at Rockliffe Hall.”
The superbly-manicured Rockliffe Hall layout was opened in 2009 on a site which is also home to the Middlesbrough Football Club training facility and, at its full length from the back tees, plays a staggering 7,879 yards.
Wesselingh is joined in County Durham this week by defending champion Steen Tinning, who pipped Spaniard Santiago Luna to the post in a thrilling final day in 2013 when the English Senior Open returned to the Senior Tour calendar after a six-year absence last October.
Also in the field are Ryder Cup vice captains Des Smyth and Sam Torrance, former Masters Tournament winner Ian Woosnam, former Ryder Cup captain Mark James and last week’s victor Mark Davis, who prevailed in just his third start on the Senior Tour at the SSE Scottish Senior Open.
European Tour winner Jorge Berendt also makes his debut in the Senior ranks after the Argentinian turned 50 in July.
Tickets can be bought in advance or on the door for just £10 and under-16s go free. For more details visit www.englishsenioropen.com or call 01325 729999.
Source: European Tour