- PGA Seniors
The PGA Seniors Championship is a stroke play event for male professional golfers aged fifty and over which has been played on the European Senior Tour (recently renamed as the Legends Tour) since it was founded in 1992. Along with the Senior Open Championship, it’s a 72-hole competition, unlike the other regular 54-hole tournaments on the senior circuit.
It began in 1957 as a 3-round contest and was played as such for the first ten editions until changing to its current format in 1967. For some reason it reverted to its former 54-hole setup from 1993 to 1995 before changing back again to four rounds of 18 holes. It was reduced to three rounds in both 1987 at Coventry and 2012 at Slaley Hall because of bad weather.
The inaugural competition was held at Fulwell in 1957, with John Burton winning by five strokes from his nearest rival. Lancastrian Burton, older brother of Dick Burton who won the 1939 Open at St Andrews, claimed the first prize of £250 and gained the right to face the Senior PGA champion in the head-to-head World Senior Championship.
Hosted by Pollok Golf Club in Glasgow, this 36-hole match play event was played two months later against Al Watrous, the Oakland Hills professional who had previously won the Senior PGA title in 1950 and 1951. Unfortunately for Burton, his American opponent ran out an easy victor, winning by the resounding score of 8&6.
English professionals won ten of the thirteen competitions played during the 1950s and 1960s but that dominance was interrupted with the arrival of Australian Kel Nagle at Elie in 1971, when he outscored the field by six shots to lift the trophy. He then proved this was no flash in the pan by winning at the same venue in 1973 then at Longniddry in 1975.
After the intervention of this Antipodean golfing great, it was time for the Irish to make their mark on the tournament, with players from the Emerald Isle winning nine championships in a row; six of these victories were attributed to Christy O’Connor Sr. between 1976 and 1983 (and he would go on to finish runner-up at Pannal in 1985 and Royal Dublin in 1992).
Still, the professionals from Down Under were far from finished as Peter Thomson won at North Berwick in 1988, followed by Terry Gale and Ross Metherell at The Belfry in 1996 and 1999, before Ian Stanley secured yet another Australian win at Carden Park in 2001.
Even the Americans decided to get in on the act: Walter Hall from North Carolina won at the Belfry in 1997 (he would also triumph in the Canadian Senior Open four years later) and Texan John Grace edged out Englishman Peter Dawson with a birdie at the first playoff hole to win at the same Brabazon course in 2000.
For anybody thinking one or two of these champions might be regarded as surprise names for the engraver to etch on the trophy, what about Seiji Ebihar from Japan, who won by a massive ten strokes at Carden Park in 2002? Then again, his success wasn’t really that much of a shock when you consider he’d already won four events on the senior circuit in the previous 15 months.
Christy O’Connor has won the most number of competitions with his six titles, followed by Neil Coles with four (between 1985 and 1989) and Carl Mason three (starting in 2004 and ending in 2009).
Three 18-hole layouts have each staged the tournament a record five times: the Nicklaus course at Carden Park (2001-2005); the Hunting course at Slaley Hall (2008-2012); and the Brabazon course at The Belfry (1996-2000).
You’ll not find the following courses below as they are not currently ranked in any of our listings: Cambridgeshire Hotel (1977-1979), Hill Barn (1961), Stratford-on-Avon (1984).
PGA Seniors Top 100 Leaderboard