Peter Fowler sealed a sentimental return to the course where six years ago he feared for his golfing future, clinching a hard-fought one stroke victory in the Acorn Jersey Open at La Moye Golf Club.
The Australian, who celebrates his 56th birthday on Tuesday, injured his back on the eve of his European Senior Tour debut on the Channel Island in 2009 and subsequently required surgery which kept him out of the game for nearly a year.
But this time fortune proved to be in his favour as he survived a nervous finish to card a one under par closing round of 71 and a seven under par winning score, holding off the challenge of playing partner Anders Forsbrand to capture his fourth Senior Tour title, and first since the 2013 French Riviera Masters
Coincidentally, Fowler also made his European Tour debut at La Moye Golf Club 32 years ago, and despite the painful memories of the career-threatening injury he sustained at the venue, he admits it is a special place for him.
“I made my European Tour debut here and my Senior Tour debut as well, and it is fantastic to now win here too,” said Fowler. “It’s a course I’m very fond of, so it is special. I also lost in a play-off here to John Morgan in 1986 and my caddie this week, Tim Morton, was on the bag then. I’m staying with him this week, so it’s nice for us to come back together nearly 30 years later and go one better.
“It was a good tussle today with Anders. We played the Tour at the same time and he played very strong today, hitting a lot of greens, but my putting was the difference. I’ve worked hard on my putting and it has come back the last couple of weeks, because it wasn’t very good last year.”
Starting the day tied for the lead, both Fowler and Forsbrand reached the turn in level par, but Fowler pulled away on the back nine with birdies on the 11th and 13th holes. He dropped a shot on the 14th when he ball plugged in a bunker, but regained that on the 16th, before another bogey on the 17th meant he took a slender one -shot lead to the 18th hole.
Any resulting nerves were not settled when he pushed his tee shot left, but a fine approach shot out of the rough and a steady putt from 12ft set up a tap-in par for the victory, with Forsbrand left to rue a cold putter as he made nine straight pars on the inward nine for a level par 72 and a six-under-par total.
Fowler’s victory continues his strong start to the 2015 Senior Tour season after he finished joint runner-up behind Paul Wesselingh in last week’s SSE Enterprise Wales Senior Open at The Celtic Manor Resort. It also extends his impressive record on the Senior Tour following his career-saving back operation and subsequent gruelling rehabilitation.
One of the most consistent players since his return to action, Fowler won the 2011 Senior Tour Order of Merit, a year after returning to the game, and he believes the back injury he sustained at La Moye in 2009 strengthened his mental resolve, which proved decisive in his back-nine battle with Forsbrand.
“When you have any back surgery, you are entering the unknown and you fear for your career,” said Fowler, who won the 1993 BMW International Open on The European Tour. “The rehab was long and arduous, but wins like this make it all worthwhile.
“I’ve played some of my best golf since the surgery, although I wouldn’t recommend it for people. But once you go through the hard work, it strengthens your resolve, and it definitely helped me today. I’m mentally tougher because of it.”
Although he just missed out on a second Senior Tour title, Forsbrand can take heart from his best finish on the Senior Tour since his victory in the SSE Scottish Senior Open in 2012.
“I played great, but I only holed one putt today,” he said. “That was almost as good as I can play, but if you don’t hole anything, you can’t win. Peter got it up and down from everywhere and battled fantastically. That was the difference. If I can keep hitting it like this, and suss out the putting, I will hit some decent numbers this year.”
Welshman Mark Mouland posted a closing round of 69 to finish tied third on five under par, alongside Switzerland’s André Bossert, who birdied the last for a round of 71.
Irish pair Des Smyth and Philip Walton both signed for rounds of 68 to share fifth place with France’s Marc Farry (72) and Englishman Andrew Sherborne (73).
American Gary Rusnak produced a spectacular finish, carding three birdies and an eagle in his final four holes, for the lowest round of the day – a six under par 66. That meant he leapt up the leaderboard into a five-way share of ninth place on two under par, alongside former Ryder Cup captain Mark James.
Complete final round scores from La Moye Golf Club (par 72)
209 P Fowler (Aus) 70 68 71,
210 A Forsbrand (Swe) 70 68 72,
211 M Mouland (Wal) 73 69 69, A Bossert (Sui) 68 72 71,
213 P Walton (Irl) 73 72 68, M Farry (Fra) 70 71 72, D Smyth (Irl) 73 72 68, A Sherborne (Eng) 72 68 73,
214 M James (Eng) 72 72 70, J Remesy (Fra) 71 72 71, R Gibson (Can) 69 72 73, G Rusnak (USA) 75 73 66, K Tarling (Can) 70 72 72,
215 D Russell (Eng) 73 71 71, G Brand Jnr (Sco) 73 72 70, R Drummond (Sco) 75 71 69, P Golding (Eng) 72 69 74, B Lane (Eng) 70 76 69, T Thelen (USA) 75 68 72,
216 M Harwood (Aus) 74 71 71, M Davis (Eng) 69 71 76, G Manson (Aut) 74 72 70, P Wesselingh (Eng) 73 71 72, C Mason (Eng) 70 75 71,
217 J Quiros (Esp) 68 75 74, M Mackenzie (Eng) 75 69 73,
218 P Way (Eng) 73 74 71,
219 S Brown (Eng) 74 73 72, S Luna (Esp) 75 69 75, M Martin (Esp) 73 74 72,
220 T Price (Aus) 78 71 71, R Rafferty (Nir) 76 70 74, J Harrison (Eng) 75 70 75, P Eales (Eng) 76 72 72,
221 G Wolstenholme (Eng) 74 75 72, D O’Sullivan (Irl) 73 74 74, P Mitchell (Eng) 76 74 71, N Job (Eng) 74 73 74, J Bruner (USA) 73 74 74,
222 D Hospital (Esp) 76 74 72, L Carbonetti (Arg) 75 76 71,
224 I Woosnam (Wal) 72 74 78,
225 T Elliott (Aus) 76 77 72, A Oldcorn (Sco) 76 73 76, P Linhart (Esp) 75 78 72,
226 G Brand (Eng) 72 77 77, T Johnstone (Zim) 78 73 75, C Williams (RSA) 78 73 75,
227 W Grant (Eng) 77 72 78, B Longmuir (Sco) 74 74 79,
228 J Berendt (Arg) 74 75 79,
231 P Harrison (Eng) 79 77 75,
233 M Deeley (Eng) 81 76 76, S Torrance (Sco) 78 79 76, G Emerson (Eng) 80 78 75,
235 N Ratcliffe (Aus) 79 79 77,
242 W Stephens (Eng) 88 78 76,
** S Tinning (Den) 74 74 WD,
** G Marks (Eng) 71 WD 0, B Cameron (Eng) 76 RT 0,