Who says there’s no place for short hitters in the professional game? Not England’s Gary Wolstenholme.
The 50-year-old Englishman certainly didn’t use power to win his first professional tournament, the Casa Serena Open, in only his second professional start on the European Senior Tour. Wolstenholme won the tournament the same way he won two British Amateur Championships – with accuracy and grit.
Wolstenholme led wire-to-wire in the Czech Republic. Scores of 66, 67, 67 gave him a three-shot lead over Scotland’s Gordon Brand Jr. and a check for €90,000.
The rookie Englishman only made it into the field courtesy of finishing in the top 10 of his first European Senior Tour start, the Travis Perkins Senior Masters at Woburn. His third-place finish in that event was something of a fairytale, but Wolstenholme proved it was no fluke with three days of steady play at Casa Serena Golf Club.
Wolstenholme had been gearing up for a visit to Senior Tour Q-School at the end of the year. He doesn’t have to make that trip now. His victory gives him a two-year exemption.
Wolstenholme called it “a dream come true.” Others might view it as miraculous.
Wolstenholme turned professional two years ago only because there wasn’t much left for him to do in the amateur game. More importantly, he needed the money because the English Golf Union had cut off the funding he needed to compete on the amateur circuit.
Wolstenholme is arguably golf’s greatest overachiever. He carved out a glittering amateur career despite lacking length off the tee. As well as his two British Amateur titles (1993 and 2003), he also played in six Walker Cups, and played more times for England than anyone else.
Watching Wolstenholme hit woods into par-4s was de rigueur for amateur aficionados in the British Isles. It wasn’t surprising to see him 60, 70 yards behind an opponent in match play, yet Wolstenholme won more often than not because he was just as accurate with his woods as opponents were with 7-irons.
Aside from his two British Amateur wins, perhaps Wolstenholme’s greatest claim to fame is defeating Tiger Woods in singles play in the 1995 Walker Cup at Royal Porthcawl in Great Britain & Ireland’s 14-10 victory. Woods was up to 80 yards longer off the tee than the Englishman, yet Wolstenholme hung on to defeat Woods by one hole.
Woods isn’t the only big name Wolstenholme has taken down in match play. He also defeated Anthony Kim by one hole in the 2005 Walker Cup at Chicago Golf Club.
The Englishman says he has many goals to accomplish in senior golf. After two successful outings, not many would be surprised if he achieves his goals.
Wolstenholme must now be wondering why he didn’t take a shot at the regular tour. If his victory proves anything, it’s that short and accurate is not a bad combination in the pro game.