Chapman in action during the second round of the Willow Senior Golf Classic played at Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel and Country Club on August 26, 2017 in Ware, England. (Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images)
By Kent Gray
All good things come to an end eventually but Roger Chapman is far from done even if his Champions Tour status is dusted.
The Kenyan-born, Ascot-based Englishman’s five-year exemption on the U.S. senior circuit, courtesy of his back-to-back major wins at the 2012 Senior PGA Championship and U.S. Seniors Open, expired last July. The 58-year-old saw out the season in America but there was no late Schwab Cup surge to secure a U.S. stay-of execution as he finished 79th placing in the standings with $111,628.
Fortunately, the PGA Tour Champions loss is the Staysure Tour’s fulltime gain with Chapman committing to the former European Senior Tour in 2018, starting with the $425,000 Sharjah Senior Golf Masters from Thursday.
“It was nice to come back to Europe and play [last year]. It was a good change to travel on a Wednesday and come back on a Sunday night, whereas in America, Cathy, my wife, and I would travel from April until July – three months living out of a suitcase,” said Chapman.
“We had a good 5-6 years out in the States but it’s nice to come back to Europe and play with my good friends again. I was always a bit more relaxed playing in Europe. I was playing a bit better and got some confidence going and played OK.”
Four top-5 finishes and another three top-15s in 11 starts last year saw Chapman claim13th place in the Staysure Order-of-Merit with €110,338. One of those top-5s was in the season opener at Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club and has Chapman eyeing loftier goals in 2018.
“I’m aiming for a top five finish on the Order of Merit and now that I’m committed to playing a full [Staysure Tour] schedule I believe that’s within my grasp,” he said.
“I really enjoyed the tournament last year. None of the players really knew what to expect with it being held on a nine-hole course but I thought the layout was very good, the holes were great, the variation on tee positions on the par-3s and par-5s made it feel different on each nine and it was a good test of golf.”
Chapman banked in excess of $2.5 million in the past five years in the U.S. but $1 million of that came in his breakout year of 2012 when he finished 4th on the money-list; his next best season with 49th in 2014. Before the 50+ retirement plan, the 1979 English Amateur Champion finished in the top-100 of the European Tour in 19 of 21 campaigns spanning two decades but managed only one win, the Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open in 2000 when he edged Padraig Harrington in a playoff.
His major wins likewise came over quality opposition; he beat American John Cook by two strokes for the PGA title and Fred Funk, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman and Corey Pavin by the same margin at the U.S. Senior Open.
Chapman headed to Dubai early to sharpen his game at the European Tour Performance Institute at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“I had a couple of visits from my coach, Gary Nicol, who came down from Scotland and I have hit a few balls but the weather in the UK hasn’t been much good. Being in Dubai gives me the chance to get some sun on my back before I go over to Sharjah for the tournament. I’m looking forward to competing again and seeing how the tournament plays second time around.”