- Alistair Tait
Golf Dreams Never Die
Stephen Dodd would have been forgiven for giving up life as a tour professional in 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999. He failed to get his card at the European Tour Qualifying School in those years, even though he turned professional after reaching the pinnacle of amateur golf by winning the 1989 Amateur Championship.
Just as well the 55 year old stuck at it: he’s just won his first senior major.
The Welshman played in just four majors in his regular tour career and missed the cut in all four, but he holed a 10-foot birdie on Sunningdale’s 18th green to edge Spaniard Miguel Ángel Jiménez and win the Senior Open Championship.
Further proof it pays to persevere in this game.
Don’t let the introduction fool you too much. Despite those early failures, the 55 year old won three times in his European Tour career. He also won on the Challenge Tour, and has another three victories in senior golf. However, a look at his European Tour profile shows a total of 12 trips through the dreaded Q School nightmare. He was successful on just three occasions. Thankfully he was able to build on 2000 success to go on and win the 2004 China Open, 2005 Irish Open and 2006 European Open, three stellar tournaments.
Those three winning years more than made up for the heartache of missing out on previous Q School trips. Nevertheless, many would have quit flogging their way around the fairways to look for another means of employment. Now he’s a senior major winner.
Funny old game.
Very few would have picked Dodd at the start of the week, but all it takes is one good week to realise a dream.
“I'm not sure it's sunk in yet,” Dodd said. “It's been quite a tough day. Wasn't playing great. So I'm sure on the drive home I'll reflect on it all and I'll be a very happy person when I get back home later tonight.”
As for that vital putt to break out of the deadlock with Jiménez, there was more than a wee bit of determination when he stood over the ball.
“This could be the only chance I get to win (the Senior Open), so tried my best to hole it. Thankfully for me it went in, so it was a nice way to finish for me.”
That he was able to overcome a stellar field that included names like Jiménez, Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Paul Broadhurst and Jerry Kelly, who finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th respectively, along with Ernie Els, Thomas Bjorn, Colin Montgomerie, Tom Lehman, Ian Woosnam and others who had far better careers on the regular tour is all the more admiral because Dodd hadn’t played much tournament golf before he arrived at Sunningdale.
“I've not played any competitive golf – well, one tournament in 18 or 19 months – so there's no real competitive golf behind me. I didn't know what to expect this week.
“I did some good work on Monday with my coach, Denis Pugh, but it kind of gradually got a bit worse as the week went on. Expectation-wise, I didn't really have any expectations because, as I said, I played so little competitive golf that I just wanted to play well and just do myself a bit of justice, and I think I've done a bit more than that, luckily.”
A lot more than that. There’s an extremely good chance those three trophies he won on the regular tour, the others he’s earned, might get shunted aside so the Senior Open chalice gets pride of place alongside the gold medal he picked up for winning the Amateur Championship.
Bet he’s glad he didn’t let his golf dream die during those failed Q School trips.
#JustSaying: “I have to face it. I can’t play on the Tour unless I get through this damn (Q) school. I have to play well this one week or … well, I refuse to talk about the alternative.” Curtis Strange, who not only came through the PGA Tour Q School but went on to win the 1989 and 1990 U.S. Opens
Photograph by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour