Nightmare is over as Gary Wolstenholme hits top form

GARY Wolstenholme used to find he couldn’t go two days without hitting a load of golf balls.

Gary Wolstenholme

GARY Wolstenholme used to find he couldn’t go two days without hitting a load of golf balls.

Then a house move last year that turned into a living nightmare meant he hardly swung a club in anger over a dreadful five-month period.

The result? Now he can hardly go two weeks without winning on the European Senior Tour.

Former Journal Dream Teams captain Wolstenhome will tee off today in the ISPA Handa PGA Seniors Championship at Slaley Hall as the man bang in form after last week’s win at the Benhavis Senior Masters gave him a Spanish double, following on from a Mallorca Open success, his first tour win at the year’s first tournament.

Not bad for someone who, thanks to a rather odd children’s television double act, which will be explained in a moment, believed his game had suffered a huge amount of damage.

Wolstenholme revealed: “I moved house to Kendal in Cumbria around Christmas time and it was such a stressful time. I hardly touched my clubs for five months and I’m someone who doesn’t like to go a day without practicing.

“Everything seemed to go wrong in the build up to the move and then we got the Chuckle Brothers as removal men. So much stuff got broken. I managed to play in two pro-ams in that time, which was great, but because of the move and the bad weather, I hardly played any golf at all.”

So the 51-year-old former Walker Cup player – he only turned professional four years ago to prepare for the senior tour – didn’t know what to expect from this season.

But even in his lighter moments he would never have dreamed of two wins out of two in Europe, which sandwiched an excellent showing in the US PGA Championship.

Wolstenholme said: “I played really well last week at the Benhavis and hit the ball beautifully. It’s been great to be in the mix over the last nine holes on a Sunday for the two wins.

“It has been exciting to play with guys such as Mark James and Barry Lane, guys I watched on television.

“I actually didn’t hit so many balls last week either beforehand, so maybe practice doesn’t make perfect for me.

“Playing in the US PGA was a thrill, but the long journey got to me because there was no leg room on the flight and I needed a lot of physio before the first round.

“I felt okay, but then I went out and shot a 79 and I’ve no idea where that score came from. So I change my flight, thinking I’d miss the cut, and then shot a 67, made the cut and changed my flight again, which set me back more money, and ended with two rounds of 69.”

So what chance of a European Tour hat-trick at the Hexham course this week?

Wolstenhome ruled that out, although he was probably the only one as few others would discount a player who is hitting the ball long and straight, plus his touch around the greens has been exquisite.

He said: “I have never done myself justice here, which is a shame because it is a wonderful test of golf and is a fantastic course. It’s just a bit long for me so I would be putting money on another win.

“The course and conditions suit Barry Lane. I think he will be a hard man to beat this week. I am a man who likes playing in warmer conditions and rain has been forecast.”

Fellow Englishman Roger Chapman won the US PGA in Michigan and that has made Wolstenhome, the all-time GB and Ireland Walker Cup team record points scorer, think that he can be a Major winner as well.

He said: “Winning is a habit and it’s one I want to get into. When I saw Roger winning in America, I did think ‘why not me?’

“I know that won’t be easy because there are 20 guys living up every week who can win, but I will work hard and give my all to do just that.”

Four years ago, near the end of his amateur days, Wolstenhome, who was brought up in Cumbria, played a few matches for the county in the Northern Counties League.

One of his matches, against Northumberland, provided a boost for Chris Paisley, then an amateur representing the Stocksfield club.

Paisley beat Wolstenholme 3&1 in the top singles.

The same season saw Wolstenholme figure in the now defunct Journal Dream Team series of matches against golf leagues in the North East.

Playing in the same Dream Team as Paisley and one of his rivals today, Matfen Hall’s John Harrison, Wolstenholme captained the side to victory over the Hadrian League at Hexham, shortly after the club had staged the Northumberland Championship.

Wolstenholme endeared himself to the Hexham membership, waxing lyrical about the beauty of the their club’s lay-out, calling it “a course you would always want to go back to.”

 

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