By Kent Gray
What a difference a year makes.
Rewind 12 months to the eve of the inaugural Sharjah Senior Golf Masters and Chris Williams seriously doubted if he had the mental fortitude to win again. He’d recorded 39 top-10s in eight seasons on the Staysure Tour (formerly European Senior Tour) – nine of them podium finishes – and yet had only once converted for the silverware, at the 2011 Brunei Senior Masters. It got to the point where the only final round surprise was when, not if, he would stumble down the stretch.
But on Saturday at Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club last March, Williams held his nerve to bury the demons as he edged Gary Marks in sudden death.
“Words fail me,” the now 58-year-old South African said at the time. Fast-forward 12 months and the disbelief has given way to understandable pride.
“It was a good feeling and something [extra] special to create history, winning the first European Tour-sanctioned event ever held on a nine hole golf course. It was a unique event and a completely new experience to play a Tour event on a nine-hole course, but I guess in playing nine holes twice I got to know the course a little better than an 18-hole layout. It’s always good to win a play-off too. You never know what might happen when you’re playing extra holes.”
The victory spurred Williams on to his most successful seniors circuit season since 2010 as he finished runner-up to American Clark Dennis in the Order of Merit race. He’s looking forward to refreshing old friendships in Sharjah but there is more fighting talk than a year ago.
“As Senior Tour players we get to know each other over the years, unlike the main Tours. We see each other just about every week during the season and we make friends over many years. We enjoy the atmosphere and the interaction between players and spectators but there is always a competitive edge to the tournaments.
“We are certainly out here to enjoy ourselves but we are here to win a golf tournament. That’s our focus and that’s our target. It’s an enjoyment to play well and be in contention and it’s most enjoyable to win. When I won in Sharjah last year, in a play-off with Gary Marks, it took a lot of pressure off me and gave me the impetus to have a really good season.
“I’ve been having a good time at home in South Africa over the last few months and I’ve kept fit by practicing almost every day and playing in a few Pro-Ams. I won a Pro-Am just recently so maybe that’s a good omen for me to hold on to my title and retain the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters trophy.”