Were he American, Neil Coles would qualify, on his 60th birthday, for the US Super Seniors Tour. As it is he is delighted to be playing competitive golf on the fledgling European Seniors Tour. Had he even travelled to America, Coles would have been a major contender, but he hates travelling and his career has been mainly confined to the playing fields closest to home.
At St Pierre Coles pulled off a classic coup. He shot 76 in the first round, 66 in the second and 71 yesterday to finish with 213 - level par. He won by two strokes from George Will of Scotland, by three from Tommy Horton and by four from Brian Huggett and the American Joe Carr. Horton, the Jerseyman journeyman, was the only player under par after the second round.
Horton - 'I'll be 52 in three weeks' - led by two strokes going into the final round and he went three clear of the field until a double-bogey six on the ninth, where he twice went into the trees. When Horton, a Ryder Cup team-mate of Coles in 1977, birdied the 14th he had a two- shot cushion. That came apart at the seams at the 15th, a par four with a dogleg left leading down to a green surrounded by water.
After his drive, Horton had 125 yards to the flag, into the wind. He went for it with a pitching wedge. His ball pitched 15 feet short of the hole, took a wicked bounce, shot 15 yards past the flag and dropped into the water. It lay on a patch of mud, clearly visible and Horton was tempted into playing it. He hit two inches behind the ball and connected with a stone. The ball crashed into the sleepers supporting the green and rebounded into deeper water.
He had no choice but to retire to the dropping-zone, incurring a one-stroke penalty. He chipped to within five feet of the hole and his putt rolled round the rim and out. A triple-bogey seven set him back to one over par - the beginning of the end.
Coles, playing in front of Horton, dropped shots at the fourth and the sixth and recovered them with birdies at the fifth and the 14th. He got up and down from a greenside bunker at the 17th to save par and also had a par at the last, which is virtually equivalent to a birdie. The 18th, a par three of 230 yards, was playing into the wind and Coles went at it with a driver. If a seasoned professional has to use a driver at a par three, where does that leave the amateur?
While Coles was talking about the seniors tour in the clubhouse - 'I'll play for as long as I keep picking up money' - Horton was in more trouble at the 17th. His eight-iron approach screwed back off the green into the lake. That cost him a double-bogey six in a round of 76. 'They were two painful, painful holes,' he said.
Coles, the chairman of the European Tour Board of Directors, won pounds 6,000 and another pounds 1,350 for his exploits in the pro-am on the first two days. This was the 38th victory of his career, his 10th in senior competition. Has the seniors tour a future? 'It's definitely my future,' Coles said.
GARY PLAYER SENIORS CLASSIC (St Pierre, Chepstow) Leading final scores: 213 N Coles (Eng) 76 66 71. 215 G Will (Sco) 73 72 70. 216 T Horton (Eng) 72 68 76. 217 B Huggett (Wal) 72 73 72; J Carr (USA) 71 71 75. 218 D Jiminez (USA) 76 71 71. 219 D Butler (Eng) 70 72 77. 220 A Skerritt (Irl) 70 72 78; H Muscroft (Eng) 78 71 71. 221 B Waites (Eng) 72 74 75.