Leading Rookie: Denis O'Sullivan

 

For an increasing number of players, life begins at 50 - and the case of Denis O'Sullivan, a former Irish amateur Close champion, takes some beating. No disrespect to Australian Stephen Leaney who won the Moroccan Open in his first year on the regular tour and who occupies a top-10 place in the Order of Merit heading into this week's season-ending Volvo Masters, but O'Sullivan's exploits unquestionably make him the "Rookie of the year" in a broader European context.

Think of it. Twelve months ago, O'Sullivan was an Irish selector and an amateur entering the twilight of his career. A trip to the Seniors' tour school, however, changed his direction. "It has been a whole new experience for me," he confessed, "and I've enjoyed it enormously." O'Sullivan's metamorphosis from amateur to professional was spurred in a way by an offer to captain the Irish amateur team. "I'm a player, not a watcher," he remarked, "and to captain the Irish team would have meant an end to my competitive career."

In accumulating almost £60,000 in prizemoney in his first year as a paid golfer, O'Sullivan has been runner-up on three occasions (most notably at the West of Ireland Seniors Championship at East Clare) and he also has the distinction of shooting a six-under-par 132 at the Elf Seniors Open in France for one of the low 36-hole totals of the season.