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Senior Ryder Cup gaining favour with Americans

Match play is arguably the purest, most dramatic form of golf and the one likeliest to promote the Seniors game to a wary public. So far, however, the possibility of mounting a Seniors Ryder Cup has been scuppered by the scepticism of the Americans.

When the main match at Brookline last year ended in acrimony, the chances of promoting a similar week for the over-50s seemed more remote than ever.

However, according to Andy Stubbs, the managing director of the Seniors European Tour, the possibility of a Seniors version of the Ryder Cup coming into the schedule by 2002 was enhanced rather than damaged by all the controversy which surrounded the match between Europe and the USA in Boston.

Stubbs holds the view that the hostile atmosphere in Boston stoked demand for a friendlier version of the biennial transatlantic rivalry.

"I think the events at Brookline may have helped us because it was all too intense," he replied, when asked about the prospects of men like Bernard Gallacher and Brian Barnes renewing old rivalries with Tom Watson, Lanny Wadkins and Co. "Maybe we’ve been treating the sport too seriously and have to remember it’s just a game – after all, we’re not seeking each other’s blood.

"What the last Ryder Cup match did was teach us how we must treat the game in future.

"I think the Seve Ballesteros Trophy held at Sunningdale last month was a terrific example of the spirit in which match play should be undertaken. A Seniors Ryder Cup would be a great event and it’s my job to see it happens."

Stubbs, who likes to market the Seniors Tour as a friendly form of competition, engaged Bruce Fleisher, currently the leading US Seniors player, in conversation after the American visited Europe and won the Irish Seniors Open this month.

He wanted to know how enthusiastic Fleischer would be about taking part in a Seniors Ryder Cup. The American responded without so much as a flicker of hesitation that it would be a huge honour and a highlight of his career.

As with every new tournament, the problem for a Seniors Ryder Cup concerns locating a suitable date in an overcrowded calendar. It is likely that the match would go ahead in the same year as the Solheim Cup, but would be staged at the beginning of the year.

The Americans, of course, have the whip hand in deciding the validity of such a venture and remain concerned about how competitive the match would be before the Famous Five – Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer – become eligible to join the Seniors circuit towards the end of this decade.

"But if we don’t have the match in 2002 or 2004," grinned Stubbs, "then the Americans will never get their name on the trophy."

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