After writing his own Cinderella story, Chapman ready to have a ball
IT’S one of the great golfing stories of the year. In more than 600 appearances on the European Tour spanning 25 seasons, Roger Chapman chalked up a solitary win.
Yet, heading into this week’s Senior Open Championship in Ayrshire he feels as though he’s the man in actor Bill Murray’s Cinderella story in the film Caddyshack.
Instead of the “former greenskeeper who’s come out of nowhere to about to become the Masters champion”, Chapman is the journeyman professional who has earned a place alongside some of the game’s greats by winning back-to-back over-50s majors this year, a feat that is even more praiseworthy given that both his successes came in America.
In May, the 53-year-old created history when he became the first Englishman to win the US Senior PGA Championship with a two-stroke victory at Harbor Shores in Michigan. Then, a fortnight ago, he returned to the same State to win the US Senior Open at Indianwood, overturning Bernhard Langer’s four-shot lead heading into the final round.
He’s only the fourth player after Gary Player (1987), Jack Nicklaus (1991) and Hale Irwin (1998) to do the double in the same season and now Chapman has the chance to add another chapter to his Cinderella story when he heads into this week’s $2 million Rolex-sponsored event at Turnberry bidding to join Gary Player as the only player to have achieved the senior Grand Slam.
“The first win at the PGA came out of the blue,” admitted the man who paid an emotional tribute to Scot George Will, the former Ryder Cup player who was long-time coach and became a father-figure to him, after that victory. “I played 11 events on the Champions Tour last year so I sort of knew what the score was. It sort of hardens you up because these guys can play and they give you no quarter and earn your respect.
“I started working out more and lost 25lbs in the gym and felt fit and, if you feel fit, your mind is stronger. I went to Harbor Springs with no great expectations trying to make the top 25 that week. But I was leading after the first round and again after the second. Then I shot 65 playing with Hale Irwin and John Cook and led by five with round to go. Then, when I went nine clear, there were demons at the back of my mind and a few came back at me but, although I bogied the last two holes, I felt okay.
“At the start of the week of the US Senior Open I felt quietly confident. But I was also learning to cope with the press and the higher expectations. I had three 68s at Indianwood and was four behind Langer going into the last round. But I quietly fancied a shot at it and birdied the second while Langer had a double bogey and I was suddenly only one behind. Then I played great and felt so much in control.
“I was intimidated in the past by the names on Tour. But now I have self-belief after getting over the line at Harbor Springs. I said to myself I had already done it once when it wasn’t expected coming from four back, so I was ready to have a go and it was one Sunday I enjoyed for many a year.
“I can’t put my finger on why there has been this change. But it’s a Cinderella story. It’s like Caddyshack. I see myself playing the Bill Murray role. At least it’s a bit like that and it hasn’t fully sunk in yet.”
Neither has his new-found fame. “Arnold Palmer has twice written to me and that’s just incredible. Imagine, letters from the ‘King’,” he added. “I can’t walk 50 yards without somebody coming up to me.”
The two wins have seen him bank around £120,000 – just under half what he earned in his entire regular Tour career. It’s allowed him to do some work on his home in Ascot. “I wouldn’t mind a new car but you’ve got to look after your money as well and it’s a nice feeling to have a pension fund,” he confessed.
Chapman, who received unstinting support from his wife, Cathy, during his regular Tour career – “she had always said I was a winner but you never listen to the wife, do you?” – is looking forward to this week. It’s where he made his Open Championship debut as an 18-year-old amateur in 1977. He also has fond memories of playing there with Seve Ballesteros in the last round in 1986.
“I am going to enjoy it,” he said. “It was my first Open there and, of course, that was the Duel in the Sun. As it happens, I’m playing with Tom Watson in the pro-am. It feels a bit surreal playing with him after watching him win there. I am relaxed but it is at the back of my mind I can make history so I’ll be under pressure. But my confidence is sky high. Part of me wishes this had happened when I was on the regular tour. I had an okay career but I probably should have done better and I didn’t perhaps live up to other people’s expectations of me. I would probably give myself a B minus or a C plus.
“Maybe if I had won earlier in my career instead of waiting till 2000 in Brazil it would have been different but you never know. I had belief the Sunday after I won at Indianwood I’ve never had before. It’s so strong and I can’t wait for Turnberry to start. Bring it on. How many times in the past did I say that?”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North