Ronan Rafferty has relished the opportunity of turning out in his first British Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl on the South Wales coast today ever since his 50th birthday back in January.
And Rafferty, from Warrenpoint, Co Down, who retired from the European Tour in 2003 is particularly delighted to be at Porthcawl as he has played the course overlooking the Bristol Channel more times than most of those in the field.
He competed here in the 1980 Amateur Championship, played in Coral Classics in the early 80s and represented Ireland in Home Internationals at Porthcawl.
“It is a stunning course to look at and equally great to play. I am raring to go although year one in the Seniors is a case of learning the ropes again,” said Rafferty, who topped the European Tour Order of Merit in 1989.
“I love links golf – I won the Irish amateur at Royal County Down and am now an honorary member of that great club.”
He was something of a teenage prodigy – winning the British Boys title at 15 and playing in the Walker Cup at 17.
Rafferty goes out last in the first round today with American Olin Browne and former Ryder Cup captain Mark James.
Ireland's Des Smyth, one of this year's Ryder Cup vice-captains, is in the field and goes out today with American Gary Hallberg and Carl Mason. Smyth won the Madeira Island Open in 2001 at the age of 48 and could still pose a real threat.
Philip Walton and Dennis O'Sullivan are two other Irishmen in the line-up.
It is thought to be the strongest field ever assembled for this tournament. Mark Wiebe defends the title he won at Royal Birkdale. Bernhard Langer, who lost to him in a play-off, is in fine form and must be ranked as one of the favourites.
The legendary Tom Watson, Miguel Angel Jiminez, Colin Montgomerie and Wales's own Ian Woosnam are all included in a star-studded line-up.