After a tense final day battle, Paul Wesselingh emerged victor on the final day at Constance Belle Mare Plage. It all appeared so simple.
A burst of four birdies in six holes around the turn had given the defending MCB Tour Champion Paul Wesselingh a two-shot lead which he held as he neared the final tee.
But up ahead his nearest challenger, fellow Englishman Barry Lane, made birdie four to immediately close the gap to one.
No matter. Wesselingh found the green in three and could afford to take two putts for the title.
Whereupon he took three.
Bogey six, tied at the end of regulation play with Lane, and a repeat of his second round effort when the putting surface was a mere 100 yards away – and he duffed his approach only halfway there on his way to another bogey six.
The fluffed putt on 18 – it horse-shoed the cup from four feet – also called to mind his missed eagle putt 12 months ago. On that occasion it didn’t matter – he was miles ahead of the field. That approach shot which set it up won European Senior Tour Shot of the Year; Wesselingh admitted the missed putt which followed it should have won Worst Shot of the Year.
All in all it meant there was little reason for the Englishman to anticipate a return to the 18th tee for the play-off. The hole didn’t have bad memories lurking; it had demons in all directions.
So guess what happened? Wesselingh – who remember could have taken five shots on the hole when he played it in regulation – made birdie four not once, not twice, not three or four times, but five times in a row.
So did Lane, in a play-off of epic proportions.
Until finally, at the sixth time of asking, they were separated. Wesselingh made five and Lane bogey six in a record-equalling Senior Tour play-off.
“I feel like I’ve been through the ringer,” Wesselingh said afterwards. “I was shaking on the 18th green in regulation play. Nerves just got to me, so to finally finish it off is fantastic.
“I needed to be mentally strong and David Frost, who I was playing with, said some nice words which helped me to focus. I’ve struggled on the par fives all week and barely had any birdies, so to have five in a row in the play-off is amazing.”
You might argue that it is only as amazing as the Derbyshire golfer’s story, which offers hope to everyone, not just golfers. It’s a reminder that it is never too late to fight for your dreams.
Why? Well, he admitted after last year’s victory on the Legends course that as a 16-year-old he was nothing special and played off a handicap of only 12.
Of his golf at the age of 30 he added: “I was rubbish really. I had a couple of half-hearted attempts at making the European Tour, but I just wasn’t good enough.”
By this stage in his life, he and wife Tracy had three young boys and Wesselingh preferred to watch them grow up rather than travel the world chasing a golf fantasy.
But by his mid-forties he recognised that his game had matured and now, at the age of 52, he is a seven-time Senior Tour winner, who has experienced the thrill of taking on, and defeating, some of the best golfers of his generation.
If that last statement seems a little over-the-top consider this:
– twelve months ago Wesselingh played the final round with Colin Montgomerie, one of the Ryder Cup’s greatest ever head-to-head performers, and beat him.
– three months ago Wesselingh took on Bernhard Langer, currently the world’s number one senior golfer, in a play-off in Langer’s own Germany, and beat him.
– today Wesselingh played alongside tournament leader David Frost, a two-time winner on the Legends course, and beat him.
It is worth recalling the words he uttered after his win last year: “I love being in contention. I get nervous but I really enjoy it. Some of my best rounds have been when I’ve been in contention.”
At Constance Belle Mare Plage this December, he proved it again – and confirmed that he is a long, long way from the 16-year-old with a 12-handicap and big dreams.
On an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean Paul Wesselingh continued his career Indian Summer.