Golf: Carl Mason: my part in his first tour victory: Correspondent's chance encounter with caddie helps Briton to keep his nerve and end a 20-year wait for success. Tim Glover tells all

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The Independent Online
I WOULD like to think that, by pure coincidence, I played a very minor role in the major breakthrough of Carl Mason.

It all started at Terminal 2, Heathrow Airport, a week ago.

Mason was standing alone at the bar. He, as is his wont, bought me a drink and I exchanged the courtesy. Since playing in Dubai and Thailand Mason had done very little. He had been practising on the range with his nine-year-old son, Andrew, who will probably follow in his father's footsteps as Carl did in his father's. Roy Mason is the club professional at Goring and Streatley, an attractive hillside course that overlooks the Thames and has commanding views of Berkshire and Oxfordshire.

Aside from practising, Mason, studied video tapes of Bobby Jones's putting technique. As a

result Mason putted with his feet close together and with both thumbs down the shaft.

Like his father, Carl Mason is the epitome of the old-fashioned golf professional. Unlike the majority of the new wave, Carl enjoys a drink and a smoke and is not afraid to put his hand in his pocket. What he, and many others, thought he was afraid of is winning. Frankly, he was considered to be too much of a gentleman to apply the coup de grace. 'Mace', as he is known on the European Tour, could not cut the mustard.

All that changed when he won the Turespana Masters at Monte Castillo, Jerez, on Sunday evening. On Saturday evening, by more

coincidence, I bumped into Martin Rowley, Mason's caddie. 'Do you think he can do it?' Rowley asked. 'I don't see any reason why he can't,' I replied. After the third round Mason, at eight under par for the championship, was tied for the lead with Jose-Maria Olazabal. 'What would you say to him if things start to get a bit tough?' Rowley asked. 'Very little,' I said. 'Just remind him of what he said to us earlier in the week. 'The course has great definition and I just love hitting irons into the greens'.'

Mason hit two of the best irons of his life at the sixth, a three-iron from 174 yards, and at the seventh, a one-iron into the wind and over the water. On both greens he made putts of around 30 feet for birdie threes. 'If I can hit a one- iron like that, what have I got to be afraid of?' he told himself. The answer was nothing. Mason shot 70 following rounds of 67, 70 and 71 for an aggregate of 278 and he won by two strokes from Olazabal.

When Roger Chapman appeared on the leader board at Monte Castillo he spoke about the 'fear of winning'. What Chapman and Mason had in common is that between them they had put in 34 years on the European Tour and neither had won a championship. Mason turned professional in 1974 after winning the English Youths' Amateur Championship and in his first year he won just over pounds 2,000. Last year he won nearly pounds 200,000 but still could not shake off the stigma of being the best man rather than the bridegroom. When he finished second in the Dunhill British Masters at Woburn last season - the sixth time he had been a runner-up - it was not because he was a bag of nerves: simply that Peter Baker had an astonishing round.

The Turespana Masters was Mason's 455th Order of Merit event. He has had 58 top 10 finishes and in 1980 was tied fourth in the Open at Muirfield. Alongside him was Jack Nicklaus, who

designed Monte Castillo, and who missed the half-way cut on Friday. Big Jack, who has won 18 major

titles, is 54; Mason is only 40. It has taken the Englishman 20 years to arrive and there is no one who knows him who does not think that it was worth the wait.

(Photograph omitted)