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Bernard Gallagher joins the senior tour

Former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher, 50 on Feburary 9, thinks he is joining the European Seniors Tour at the very moment the circuit is about to take off.

"The explosion in popularity is, I believe, just about to happen," said Gallacher, whose birthday comes on the day the tour announces a schedule of 19 events this year and record prize money of £2.7million.

"The Seniors Tour has a sound base now and they will build on that as other well-known players turn 50.

"It would be difficult for me to compete with the likes of Ernie Els and Lee Westwood, but it's nice to be able to play with my peers again.

"I don't see myself playing here as a stepping stone to going to America. My future is here and my roots are here, although if things go well I'd like to play a couple of events over there.

"I've never, ever stopped playing or neglected the game. Since leaving Wentworth three years ago he was the club professional there for over 20 years I've played every second day at least.

"I work out three hours a day, three days a week and go for a daily jog around Virginia Water Lake to keep me fit.

"I played in the Hong Kong Open and the Scottish PGA recently. I was a bit jumpy but made the cuts. Once every hole was a potential birdie - now every one is a potential disaster. However, I put that down to confidence."

Gallacher, Europe's leading money-winner in 1969 and a member of eight Ryder Cup sides as well as a captain of three, will be trying to end Tommy Horton's three-year reign as Seniors number one.

Horton is keen, of course, to extend that and also to win the British Seniors Open for the first time. That will again be held at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland on July 22-25 - the week after the Open at Carnoustie - with prize money of £400,000.

Overall prize money is up £285,000, and there are five new events on the circuit.

Managing director Andy Stubbs stated: "The tour, which started with just two tournaments, has continued to mature as it approaches its eighth season."

Senior tour itinerary