Mann draws Ryder Cup duo

ROBIN Mann, Suffolk's leading professional golfer for three decades, has a plum draw with Costantino Rocca and Gordon J Brand in the first round of the 51st PGA Seniors Championship over the Gainsborough course at Stoke by Nayland today.

By Tony Garnett

ROBIN Mann, Suffolk's leading professional golfer for three decades, has a plum draw with Costantino Rocca and Gordon J Brand in the first round of the 51st PGA Seniors Championship over the Gainsborough course at Stoke by Nayland today. They tee off at 9.30am and should have a massive following.

Mann, playing on a course he knows well, has the perfect stage to make that elusive breakthrough in his second season on the Seniors Tour. Rocca, the 50-year-old Italian, is one of the favourites to end the two-year reign of former Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance as PGA Seniors champion.

Rocca bids to become only the fifth player to add the PGA Seniors title to the PGA Championship he won at Wentworth in 1996. The others to achieve that feat have been golfing legends Dai Rees, Brian Huggett, Ken Bousfield and Neil Coles.


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Already this season Rocca has won in Ireland and was beaten last weekend in a play-off with Carl Mason, leader of the Order of Merit, at Woburn in the European Senior Masters.

“Everyone in Italy expects me to win every tournament,” said Rocca, “but it is not like that. Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself and make mistakes.”

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The man who once beat Tiger Woods in the Ryder Cup, in one of his three appearances against the Americans, stands every chance of further success this week's event which has a £200,000 prize fund.

Brand, also a former Ryder Cup player, won the DGM Barbados Open at the Royal Westmoreland Club, the opening event of this season and is consistently well up the leader board.

Frank Hill of Thorpeness, the PGA East Region captain, is drawn with Chilean star Guillermo Encina and Australian Terry Gale with an 11.30 start. Hill had a good first round at Stoke last year which he will be hoping to repeat.

Encina was fifth equal at Woburn on Sunday level with Torrance, Jose Rivero of Spain and Tony Johnstone of Zimbabwe. This is another match which is sure to be full of interest as players come to terms with fast greens that are around 10.5 on the Stimp meter.

Torrance is bidding for a hat-trick of PGA Seniors' successes to emulate Christy O'Connor and Neil Coles. He said: “It's a good incentive to have. The PGA Seniors Championship is one of the most important events of the year for me. It's a flagship tournament and, having won it for the past two years, will be looking to make it three in a row.”

He tees off at 12.50 with Denis Watson and Donald Stirling. Watson may not be a big name in England, but it's a very different matter in the United States. He has already won the PGA Seniors title in America at Kiawah Island and looks for a double with the English version. He is on top of his form and last week won the Boeing Classic after a seven-way play-off at Seattle in a field that included Mark O'Meara, Craig Stadler, Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw and many other well known American stars.

Stirling won the PGA Club Professionals' crown this year. He has had European Tour experience and is currently based in Vienna.

Guiseppe Cali, who played in the pro-am with David Burdon, Trevor Barber and Barry Revans yesterday, gave Torrance a run for his money last year. Once again former Stoke by Nayland club captain Alex Giddens will caddy for the Italian.

Season-tickets for all four days cost £20. A day ticket is £10 but there is no charge for anyone under 16.

Play starts at 7am. Three-balls of special interest include:

9.20: John Bland, Stewart Ginn, Pete Oakley.

9.30: Costantino Rocca, Robin Mann, Gordon J Brand.

9.40: Peter Barber, Nick Job, David J Russell.

11.30: Guillermo Encina, Terry Gale, Frank Hill.

11.50: Guiseppe Cali, Andrew Murray, Martin Poxon.

12.30: Juan Quiros, Tommy Horton, Martin Gray.

12.40: Kevin Spurgeon, Jerry Bruner, Bob Cameron.

12.50: Sam Torrance, Denis Watson, Donald Stirling.

1.00: Jose Rivero, Carl Mason, Jim Rhodes.

1.10: Horacio Carbonetti, Adan Sowa, Mike Gallagher,

1.20: Bill Longmuir, Ronald Stelten, Delroy Cambridge.

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