TOP-CLASS golf returned to the region with a bang! Some of the biggest names in British and European golf graced the fairways at De Vere Slaley Hall - and beat the weather - to put on a stunning exhibition of golf.
Gordon J Brand held his nerve to win the battle of the Brands in a titanic six-hole play-off for the De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship at the Northumberland course.
The 53-year-old picked up the fourth Seniors title of his career - but only after he was forced into a remarkable shoot-out with his namesake Gordon Brand Junior after he bogeyed the last hole of normal play to finish tied on four over par on 292.
The pair then kept spectators on the edge of their seats for a further hour-and-a-half as they replayed the par four 18th five times before heading to the par three 17th where the contest was eventually settled by Brand Junior flying the green into a virtually unplayable lie.
The former Ryder Cup player, making his debut on the Seniors Tour after turning 50 just the week before, eventually hacked his way on to the green in four but Brand safely parred for victory to land the £50,000 first prize.
Incredibly, Brand went on to notch superb back-to-back victories on the Seniors Tour when he captured the title at the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters at Woburn the following week.
That win was worth £37,500, taking his earnings for the two tournaments to an amazing £97,500.
Brand, who after his third round 68 at Slaley Hall credited a putting tip from his wife with transforming his fortunes, was delighted with victory but admitted he never thought it was going to end.
He said: "It was like groundhog day and it was in a way. It's a shame it had to end that way for Gordon but he's a great player and will be fantastic asset to the Seniors Tour.
"From my point of view it's a real confidence booster and the taste of victory keeps the enthusiasm up."
Brand revealed regular visits to the gym had stood him in good stead during the play-off.
"I exercise in the gym every other day and I really think it made a difference out there," he said. "Some guys were running out of batteries on their trolleys so it was a real slog and great to keep going."
Brand Junior, who hasn't played any competitive golf for two years, set the clubhouse lead with a two under par 70 and afterwards despite his disappointment at missing out in the play-off was happy with how his Seniors debut had unfolded.
"I played OK this week, I just wanted to go and play well," he said. "I hit some nice iron shots but when I got to three under I became a little bit nervous and hit a rubbishy putt on the last but if someone had said to me you're going to finish the tournament and possibly win it that would be my dream start."
Sam Torrance celebrated his 55th birthday by carding a brilliant 67 - the lowest of the week across the testing Hunting Course. The Scot, who began the day nine shots off the lead, finished in a share of third alongside Irelands's Eamonn Darcy and Juan Quiros - just one shot off the leaders.
Other big names at the event included former Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam as well as former Ryder Cup hero Constantino Rocca.