Golf: Green adds colour to evergreen brigade: The oldest swingers in town relish the profitable new challenge as senior servicemen begin tour

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The Independent Online
CONSIDERING that he attended the Bath rugby club dinner on Wednesday, Peter Green was in good form. At least he was until the last two holes, a tricky par four and an even trickier par three. There was some delay at the penultimate hole as a stray sheep decided to graze on the fairway.

Whether or not it pulled the wool over Green's eyes, the fact is he put his second shot - it is a blind approach down a hill and on to a green that juts out into a lake - into a bunker. He splashed out too aggressively and his ball very nearly landed in the water on the far side of the flag. Green settled for a bogey-five.

The 18th, over water to an elevated green 237 yards away, is one of the hardest par threes anywhere and even for the professionals a bogey-four was the most common result. Green smacked a two-iron so far left it cleared a high brick wall and bounced out of bounds into Lakeside Village. He reloaded, found the front of the green with his second ball and stroked that into the hole from 35 feet for a four that could easily have been a six.

'You don't often get a second chance in this life,' Green said. He was not referring to his performance on the 18th but to the European Seniors Tour, which started yesterday with the St Pierre Classic here. 'It's a wonderful concept,' he said. 'I love it. I still enjoy competing and seeing all the old faces again is like being in a time warp.'

Life begins in the senior service at 50 and Green, at the age of 51, is one of the new boys on the block. In the first round he shot, despite the closing holes, a level-par 71 and was on the leaderboard alongside the evergreen Neil Coles but two strokes behind another middle-aged rookie, Malcolm Gregson. In the Sixties Gregson was one of the best players in Europe but he faded when a brilliant putting touch deserted him.

Coles, who forever seems to have had a shock of grey hair over each ear with nothing but a permanently suntanned pate in between, infused his round with three birdies in a row from the 12th. Coles won this championship last year but arrived here this week too late for a practice round after attending the centenary celebrations of Romford GC. The old boys are well into centenaries.

When he won here it was the 38th victory of a career that began in 1950. Green is from a slightly different school. He played on the regular Tour from 1963-69, took a year off and never rejoined it. Instead he took a job as a club pro, first with Bristol and Clifton and then Meon Valley. He gave that up after 16 years to teach at Merrist Wood, Kingston University's agricultural college near Guildford.

On the curriculum is a subject called golf studies and after a three- year course Green's pupils, who are taught playing skills, can gain a Higher National Diploma. He also coaches the Oxford University golf squad but it is the Seniors Tour that has captured his, not to mention Gregson's, imagination. 'I think the progress will be slow to start with but once the likes of Barnes and Canizares join up it will begin to take off,' Green said.

The unusual format of the St Pierre Classic is that the first two rounds are pro-am and in the final round tomorrow the 37 professionals discard their three amateur partners but retain their individual scores. The pro-am scores are totted up this evening and thus there are two competitions in one.

It is the responsibility of the professional to raise a team and he has every incentive to do so. The amateurs pay pounds 658 a head for a package that includes accommodation, meals, prizes and golf. This is one pro-am where the amateurs are not just tolerated, as is so often the case on the regular Tour, but welcomed with open arms. For it is their money that raises the pounds 50,000 purse that will be distributed among the professionals. Ideally, of course, Andy Stubbs, the managing director of the Seniors Tour, would like a sponsor. As it is his budget does not even extend to the provision of AA signs to put the tournament on the map.

ST PIERRE SENIORS CLASSIC (Chepstow) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 69 M Gregson. 71 N Coles, P Green, D Snell, T Horton. 72 S Murray, M Vercruyce (Bel), D Jimenez (US). 73 J Fourie (SA), B Huggett, J Morgan, B Waites, R Botts (US). 74 J Hamilton, J Kinsella, R Campagnoli (It), P Ferranti (US), M Cole, N Drew.

(Photograph omitted)