International golf makes a welcome return to Slaley Hall this month with a cluster of top names competing for the £300,000 De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship from August 21-24.
International golf makes a welcome return to Slaley Hall this month with a cluster of top names competing for the £300,000 De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship from August 21-24. Among the star attractions set to draw in the crowds over the Dave Thomas-designed Hunting Course will be Ryder Cup favourites Sam Torrance and Costantino Rocca plus defending champion Carl Mason.
Torrance, who led Europe to victory in the 2002 Ryder Cup, has a family steeped in the traditions of the game with his dad Bob, a renowned coach to Padraig Harrington among others.
But the ever-popular Italian Rocca, who defeated Tiger Woods in the 1997 Ryder Cup, has endured one of the more remarkable rises to golfing fame with the 51-year-old having spent the first 10 years of his working life making polystyrene boxes in a factory. His humble position echoed his boyhood days as a caddy at Bergamo Golf Club but it helped teach him that hard work was the key to success - a lesson he still applies to this very day.
"I worked in a factory for ten years and it was a good experience - I tell you," said the ever-smiling Italian.
"I think a lot of younger players need that experience of working. It makes you appreciate what you have a lot more."
He turned pro aged 25, making his breakthrough with three Challenge Tour victories in 1989 but few would have predicted the dramatic rise that the Italian would enjoy.
Four years later he was in the Ryder Cup team on the back of a season that brought him two of his five European titles, which included the PGA Championship in 1996.
However, it was events in the years either side of his PGA victory that Rocca will always be remembered for, with a dramatic climax to the 1995 Open at St Andrews (pounding the ground in joy after forcing a play-off with eventual winner John Daly).
Two years later he eclipsed that with a 4&2 victory over Woods in the Ryder Cup at Valderama which Europe won by a point.
"I know when I started that people gave me a one per cent chance and Tiger a 99 per cent of winning but I just played my game," recalls Rocca.
"I saw that Tiger was not very happy afterwards but when you are number one you do not want to lose. That was a big moment of my life."
Torrance, a two time winner of the Seniors Championship, turns 55 on the Sunday and is looking forward to crowning his birthday with a third win and also a return to the magnificent Slaley Hall.
"I've played at Slaley Hall many times before, it's always a good course and a good test up there," he said.
"I've won the PGA Seniors Championship twice before and it's a big tournament to win - one of the best in the Seniors Tour calendar. It would be a Major anywhere else."
Take advantage of a special 2 for 1 ticket offer at Slaley Hall to see Ryder Cup legends Sam Torrance and Costantino Rocca in action in the De Vere Collection PGA Seniors Championship. Ticket hotline 01675 477812. Day £10; Season £20, U16s free.