Golf: Cole seethes after missing tee time

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The Independent Online
TIM GLOVER

reports from The Belfry

The only drive Neil Coles made here yesterday was behind the wheel of his car. The chairman of the European Tour mouthed a string of obscenities before roaring out of the Midlands complex vowing: "I'll never come back to this tournament. In fact, I'll never come back to The Belfry."

Coles was disqualified for missing his tee time in the third round of the PGA Seniors champions. A model professional for 40 years with 41 victories, Coles should have teed off at 11.50am with the Australian Noel Ratcliffe and the American Bob Menne.

His name was called several times, but Coles was on the practice range. When told he was due on the tee he ran towards the first tee, driver in hand. When he arrived 10 minutes later, the tournament director, Stuart Curtis, informed him he had been disqualified.

"This is ridiculous," Coles said. "I rang the tournament office for my starting time and was told 12.50, so I planned my morning around that time. When I was given that time I repeated the figure and was told it was correct. To say I'm unhappy is putting it mildly."

Curtis said: "Coles' tee-off time was 11.50 and the Seniors tour allows for an extra five minutes with a two-stroke penalty. Mr Coles missed his start time, the five minutes had elapsed and he was disqualified. His explanation was that he had been given the wrong start time, but it is a player's responsibility. It was a most unfortunate situation, but everybody has to play by the rules."

In four decades at the top the only other occasion the 62-year-old Coles was disqualified was at the Tournament Players' championship at St Mellion in 1984, when he inadvertently took an illegal drop from a staked tree. Thirteen years on that experience still rankles. "Everybody received a warning about the staked tree except me," Coles said.

At level par for the tournament at The Belfry he was joint 11th and heading for a decent cheque. If the oldest winner on both the regular European and Senior Tours is true to his word, it means he will not attend the Ryder Cup here in 2001.

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