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Eaglescliffe pro ready to roll at English Seniors
IT is not every year you can celebrate a 50th birthday, so what better way to mark the half century than by qualifying to play Seniors Tour golf in your native North-East.
That is the situation facing likeable golfer Graeme Bell and the Eaglescliffe professional will be giving his friends from his club a feel of the occasion when he tees off in the English Seniors Open at Rockliffe Hall next month.
While Ian Woosnam, Mark James and Gordon Brand Jnr are likely to call on their usual bag-man, Bell will be given a taste of the big time to his colleagues at his Teesside club.
Over the course of three days action at the Hurworth, County Durham course, from October 4-6 there will be a different caddie on duty for the man from Hartlepool.
“On Friday I will have Andrew Walker with me from the club, Malcolm Marshall will be with me on the Saturday and then another member, James Haste, will do it on the Sunday,” said Bell.
“I'm not used to having anyone caddying for me really. I always just use my electric trolley, so it's never really bothered me before.
“I had Malcolm with me earlier in the summer at the PGA Seniors Championship and I was going to have him again this time. He could only do the Saturday, though, so then Andrew and James said they'd do it. Why not?”
The four days at Mottram Hall for the Seniors Championship in June were his first and only experience of playing Seniors Tour golf since gaining a conditional card in January.
He turned in a positive display over the four days too, ending up on one-under on tied 38th with a cheque for €1,890 after shooting 70, 74, 72 and 75.
“I was happy with that,” said Bell. “In the ten rounds I've played in the Seniors this year, including at Qualifying School, I've hit level par, so I'm happy with that.”
Having only turned 50 in April, this is the first year when Bell has been able to play Seniors Tour golf. He is hoping it will not be the last either.
As 24th reserve for events, he has missed out on tournaments more often than not but secured his place at the PGA Seniors Championship by finishing top 20 in the Senior Club Pro Championship at Northampton in May.
“It's not as straight forward as thinking I want to play in more tournaments next year,” said Bell. “I haven't got a past record on the European Tour scene to build on, so I'm going in from scratch really.
“Qualifying is complex, so you have to go through Qualifying School, like I tried in January when I finished 14th to qualify for some events.
“But I'm hoping I will get a good finish at Rockliffe. I am also hoping to go to Taiwan for the Fubon Senior Open (November 15-17). Another good finish there could mean I would be in the top 75 on the Order of Merit and then I would be exempt from the first stage of Qualifying School.”
With such a strong field lined up for the English Seniors Open made up of former European Tour pros, it will be difficult for Bell to make inroads on the top ten. He, for one, will not be thinking like that, though.
“I want to be competitive,” said Bell, whose only European Tour outing was in 1990 at the NM English Open. “It's not my style just to go in to something just to enjoy it.
“If I put in a decent performance I could do quite well. I have got a good record as pro, even if it is not as a Tour pro. You never know, if I can do well at this one and then in Taiwan I might get in to the top 40 on the Order of Merit and that would get me a full card next year.”
Bell will be one of three North-East golfers along with Matfen Hall's John Harrison and Rockliffe's Roger Roper aiming to impress at Rockliffe Hall.
Tickets for the English Seniors Open at Rockliffe Hall in association with The Northern Echo are priced £11 and Under- 16s go free. To buy tickets or register an interest in being a course marshall and volunteer go to rockliffehall.com or call 0800 0232557.
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