Richard Green and Andre Stolz are two of the guns of the SParms Legends Tour and they will go head-to-head in the final group in an exciting climax to the Nova Employment Australian PGA Seniors Championship at Richmond on Sunday.
Victorian Green has won three times around the world in 2022 in his first outings as a senior player, as recently as last week in Thurgoona on the Murray at the NSW Senior Open, and his form his holding steady after a four-under-par 66 vaulted him into a share of the lead.
He will play in the final group tomorrow with Queenslander and 2020 champion Stolz, who was frustrated with his putter in his 2-under-par 68 today, and Hervey Bay PGA Professional Chris Taylor, who shot the tournament’s low round, a 64 in the benign morning conditions.
Green and Stolz are at seven-under overall, a shot ahead of Taylor, but four players – Brad Burns, Euan Walters, David McKenzie and Peter Fowler – are in the mix at five-under par, just two shots back from the lead.
Green, 51, was five-under through 10 holes on Saturday, in the outright lead by two shots and seemingly careering to another victory. But he made a bogey with a poor tee shot at the par-4 13th, hit a couple more errant shots and his putter went cold, and he limped in with five consecutive pars, missing a two-metre chance at the last hole after a brilliant short iron shot over a tree and on to the green.
“It was OK but it was a bit of a flat back nine,” said Green. “Those holes 13, 14, 15 are quite difficult.”
Green became eligible for senior golf when he turned 50 last year, and he immediately won twice this year in Europe before returning to Australia to play the local SParms PGA Legends Tour. He has loved every moment.
“It’s my first year at it. It’s nice to catch up with some guys I haven’t seen for a long time. For me I guess it’s settling into this life. I’ve been used to travelling around and playing at the younger level, now it’s nice to play these courses with guys I’ve played so much golf with earlier in my career.”
Stolz, who leads the SParms PGA Legends Tour Order of Merit, surely knows his way around Richmond’s tight fairways despite his penchant for hitting left-to-right sliders off the tee. But his day was summed up by a short miss for birdie at the 18th and he did not get the most out of his round. “It would’ve been nice to make that and ease the pain a bit, but overall, I’m pretty happy with my day,” he said.
“Yesterday I had a nice day with the putter, and I felt I had good control of the speed. Today, I don’t know. I got a bad break even on the first tee, finished about a foot off the fairway and it was in some lose dirt. That was random there. Just one of those days. I say I’ve never worked a day in my life, but it felt a bit like hard work today.”
First-round leader David Van Raalte fell away with a 75 on Saturday, and his move backwards allowed Taylor to jump into the lead with his superb morning round of six-under.
Newcastle’s Taylor is one of five brothers who followed their golfing father into the sport at Keperra Golf Club north of Brisbane. His brother Gerry played an Open Championship and another brother was in the top handful of amateurs in the world.
The club pro at Hervey Bay rolled in a nice three-metre birdie at the 18th to leave in the memory bank for tomorrow. “It’s just nice to be in contention,” he said. That’s what we’re all here for.”
But the focus may well fall on the higher-profile Green and Stolz tomorrow.
“Greeny’s a great player. He hits the ball – since he was born probably – pretty perfectly,” said Stolz. “There’s going to be a lot of great golf shots tomorrow from him. Hopefully I can hang with him and get the putter going, which would ease off the pressure.”
As for Green, he is challenging himself to go for broke and win his first national championship.
“I’m in a prime position to play aggressively tomorrow and that’s what I like,” he said.
The $120,000 championship continues tomorrow with live coverage on Fox Sports and Kayo Sports from 12.30pm AEDT.