Man of the Year: Senior Tour champion Paul Wesselingh

Golf News

From club pro to beating Major champions on the Senior Tour...

PAUL Wesselingh is the tour pro who should give every club pro hope. The Liverpool-born player, off five at the age of 23, was a trainee accountant in King’s Lynn and bored. He then got in touch with Colin Cunningham at Windmill Hill GC and quickly turned pro.

The dream was always to be a club pro (his first job was at Chorley in June 1988) but never to play on tour. Wesselingh had a young family and didn’t think it fair on his wife.

There were a couple of very half-hearted Q School attempts; at one he withdrew after two rounds. And there were appearances at the likes of Wentworth, six straight PGA Cups, the English Open and three Open Championships. But it wasn’t until Senior Tour Q School that his life changed. He finished second there and already has three wins.

He tells us in his own words how he has gone from being the pro at Kedleston Park in Derby last year to regularly beating a host of big names as he chased the Order of Merit crown.

“All I ever wanted to do was get into teaching. I was doing lots of teaching and club repairs and started to get involved in admin. I went to Northenden then Hawkstone Park in 1995 as golf manager. I was there until 2001 and progressed to almost director of golf by the time I left for Kedleston. It was a chance meeting with Howard Bennett through one of our lady members, Lora Fairclough, and she said to me I’m going for a lesson with Howard do you fancy coming and within 18 months I played my first Open at Muirfield in 1992. It completely converted me and I played more and more and had some success in the north and midland region.

I was quite happy dabbling on the European Tour and really enjoyed being a club pro and watch my three boys grow up. Only when they had grown up a bit that I decided to start thinking about the Senior Tour, and five years ago I really upped my playing on all the mini tours.

That was really good and I won the Order of merit on a couple of them but the main thing was that I started working with Ben Langdown who does the biomechanics at the PGA. That was tremendous to make sure that I was physically fit and supple by the time I got to 50 and that my body was in balance. Last year I started doing Pilates and fitness has been a key reason behind the success.

After Q School it was all a bit of a whirlwind. The first event wasn’t until mid May so I was dying to get going and played in anything I could. I went to Mallorca and was so nervous the first couple of holes, then I chipped in from behind the 3rd and after that everything was alright.

I shot 68 to lead, had another 68 and tied for the lead and then finished second which was unbelievable. That got me in the US Senior PGA but I had already won the Midlands Order of Merit so I had also qualified for Wentworth. The recorder said ‘well done, you’re going to America’. I explained that I would be going to Wentworth and then my playing partner Mike Harwood explained that it would be better for me to go to the States as it counted towards the Order of Merit. I came 20th and shot 66 in the last round and had a brilliant week. 

I came back and went to Benahavis in Spain and shot 68-64 and won the week after. The first four events I won about £70,000 and had a two-year exemption, I kept having to pinch myself it was all happening.

At Slaley Hall the weather was horrendous which I loved. The first round took about two days to play, then on the last day I chipped in so was three under after six. At the par-5 11th I dropped a shot and was so angry with myself and went on a birdie run with four of them.

I was now six under and out in the country with no leaderboards. I walked to the 17th tee and there was a camera right in my face and four people deep around the green. I said to my caddy Heather ‘I don’t want to know where I stand’ but the green was ringed with people. I was trying to find my wife in the crowd and I just saw the scoreboard and I was one clear at six under. The fact that I had the birdies late I didn’t have time to be nervous.

Had it happened on the front nine I might have fallen away.
I might have a go at the Champions Tour, their Q School clashes with Taiwan and I would love to try and win our Order of Merit. I do seem to have a habit of fast finishes. Even towards the back end of last year after the win every time I stood on the 1st tee I would think ‘what am I doing here on the Senior Tour?’ and I do tend to start slowly.

I have no idea what it is but there is obviously something rattling around my head.

I love the last rounds. I have never been a leaderboard watcher but I did at Mottram Hall. It was bizarre as I was playing with DJ Russell, who I am very comfortable with, and it wasn’t until I signed my card that I had any idea that I had shot a 64. Woosie was having a charge as was Angel Franco? and I kept telling myself to stay two or three ahead.

At no time was I aware of anyone, I was in the zone and a complete ice man. It was almost like I could see a white line when I was reading a putt. It was the most unbelievable round I have had. I’ve not had it before or since!

Two weeks later Bad Ragaz I was five under after six in the last round and leading, and then I looked at the scoreboard after 13 and saw that I was two ahead and I got nervous again. What’s all that about? Two weeks previously I had been the calmest man on the planet.

I birdied 16 and 17 and then snapped it on the last and won in a play-off.

The club (Kedlestone) knew at some point I was going to leave and a few players told me to concentrate on the Senior Tour. I wanted to be fair to the club and myself and handed my notice in October 2012 and finished this February.

I might have a go at the Champions Tour, their Q School clashes with Taiwan and I would love to try and win our Order of Merit. Ideally I would play there the first few months of the year and then play in Europe from June, I love it here and all new to me.

I think can stay competitive until I’m 62, I am fairly driven and fit. I have turned my garage into a gym and can spend three hours in there every night.

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