Golf: Jam for Murray

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The Independent Online
LIFE, for big Stuart Murray, begins at 60. He started playing golf before the Second World War and there are not many active professionals who can say that. The European Seniors Tour, which began with the St Pierre Seniors Classic here, has offered him a taste of the last of the summer wine.

Murray, 6ft 2in, 15 1/2 st and with hands the size of baseball gloves, has not given up his day job as club professional at Hendon in north London, which has been his bread and butter for the last 22 years. But he feels he deserves some jam. A sign of the growth of the senior circuit, which had three events in 1991, 13 now, is that this year a qualifying school was held and Murray left his shop to enter the twilight zone.

It was an inspirational decision. The craggy Scot was in a play-off with two others for the fourth and final card and his position looked hopeless when he was 50 yards short of the green with his second shot while his opponents were on in two. Murray then hit the flag, his ball finishing inches from the hole, and it so rattled the other two that they both three-putted.

Murray got his ticket to a gravy train that is just beginning to pull out of the sidings. 'When people like Jacklin join it will take off,' he said. 'Players will go straight from the regular tour into the seniors and you'll have generations who will never know what it's like to work in a club. I was born 30 years too early. I missed out on the amateur game when they were giving money hand over fist and I missed out as a professional when the tour grew.'

Murray, who learned his golf in Paisley, turned professional in 1963. 'It's wonderful to still be competing at my age,' he said. 'It shows that you're not absolutely finished.' The format here is that the first two rounds are pro-am and in the final round today the 37 professionals discard their amateur partners but retain their individual scores.

Murray, following a 77 yesterday, is not on the leaderboard but his team were in the prizes in the pro-am. Tommy Horton, who won the Order of Merit last year with pounds 57,000, lost this title 12 months ago to Neil Coles and today they look set for another classic denouement.

Horton shot 71 in the second round to stand at level par, and, on a blustery day with scores edging towards the octogenarian level, that put him bang in contention. It was deja vu when Coles, too, scored a successive 71 and the two rivals stood at the top of the leaderboard along with David Butler, whose 67 was the best score of the Championship.

Horton would have been under par but for several lapses on greens that had been hardened by the wind. He missed a short putt at the last to drop a stroke but the 18th at St Pierre is a brute. A par three of 237 yards, it plays as a par four. Horton, though, has a competitive edge. He has played four times on the US Seniors Tour and in February, in helping the Rest of the World beat the US in Florida, he won dollars 38,000 (pounds 25,300), the biggest cheque of his career.

(Photograph omitted)

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