Roper hungry for more success after winning Order of Merit

The Northern Echo: Fine year: Roger Roper with his caddy at Rockliffe Hall's tenth hole earlier this year Fine year: Roger Roper with his caddy at Rockliffe Hall's tenth hole earlier this year

TRAVELLING here, there and everywhere on the Senior Golf Circuit all seemed worthwhile for one North-East golfer this year when he won the Order of Merit.

But rather than settle for his success at that level, Hurworth-based Roger Roper has other ideas. If 2013 was enjoyable, he is keen to build on his achievements over the next 12 months and beyond.

Roper ended the season by finishing ninth at the Arcos Gardens Senior Challenge this month and that was enough to secure him first spot on the Circuit's Order of Merit.

“Last year I was second, I couldn't play in the Arcos that time around because I had a back injury,” said the Rockliffe Hall golfer. “It was great. It just went well for me over the year.

“It's something new for me. I guess it's a compliment to me that I have finished at the top of a list including a number of great golfers. I have to make sure I keep going now.”

Roper recorded almost 1200 points more than second placed Mark Wharton, with James Murphy in third a couple of hundred points further back.

Also in a field of big golfing names were the likes of Paul Wesselingh, the winner of the main European Seniors Tour Order of Merit, and Roper was rightly proud of his achievements.

“It's really a Circuit that many use to try to get on to the main Seniors Tour,” said the 51-year-old. “There are some pretty accomplished players on the Circuit, so I suppose it is credit to me that I'm up there.

“Gary Wolstenholme, Paul Wesselingh, Gordon Brand … there's some good names on there. I'm just so pleased it is me that is sat at the top.”

All four of those, including Roper, were at Rockliffe Hall in October to compete for the English Senior Open for the first time on County Durham turf.

Roper ended up tied 46th on that occasion and would have been even stronger placed had there not been a mix up with his caddy on the first tee on the first day.

Four months earlier he was finishing 44th at the ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship with four solid rounds.

He said: “It was good to qualify for the Seniors Open for the second year in a row. I want to make sure I keep progressing now.

“I'm going in the right direction. You have to earn the privilege to stay on the main European Seniors Tour and it's not an easy thing to do. It's tough. The qualifying is in February.”

Roper's amateur record was a decent one. He won a string of mid-amateur national titles, plus two Estonian Amateur Championships and he shared the Brabazon Trophy at Seaton Carew in 1985.

But dropping the qualifying age for the main European Senior Tour to 50 has led to an influx of club and Tour professionals. Wesselingh, for instance, has shone through without having a Touring background.

“I have finished 85th on the Order of Merit on the main Senior Tour this year and that is by playing in just three events,” said Roper.

“Hopefully I can improve my ranking and play in a few more events. That way hopefully I will keep progressing and earn the right to get in to more events.”

This year’s Senior Tour schedule had 16 tournaments to plan for. Roper was only involved in three, but he was still a regular on the Senior Golf Circuit when he was not on the main Tour.

He will turn 52 in April and the travelling from place to place in a bid to enhance his Seniors career excites him.

“Over the years I’ve been used to travelling around anyway so it’s never something that has bothered me,” said Roper. “There are a lot of good guys out there too. It’s not really about doing it for the money because there’s little sponsorship on the Senior Circuit. But there are big plans for it. Hopefully they can get more sponsors involved.”

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