Chapman holds on to win titlePublished 11:00am Monday, May 28, 2012
BENTON HARBOR — Roger Chapman may have come into the 73rd Senior PGA Championship an unknown, but after leading wire-to-wire he has made quite a name for himself.
Despite struggling to maintain his lead over the final nine holes Sunday, Chapman held on to win his first major championship and only his second tournament title of his career.
By shooting a 13-under-par 271, England’s Chapman now has a lifetime exemption for the Senior PGA Championship, a one-year exemption on the Champions Tour and a spot in the PGA’s Player’s Championship later this year.
After sinking his putt on 18 to finish Sunday’s round at 1-over-par, he was met on the green by friends David Frost and Bobby Clampett. Frost gave him a champagne shower.
“That was a crazy moment,” Chapman said. “Frosty and Bobby, they looked after me when I played the Champions Tour last year for the first sort of five, six months. I stayed with Frosty a lot when he got houses. Andy Frosty was brilliant, actually. And I think he owed me because he beat me in a playoff in one tournament.
“He was crying. Bobby was crying. We were all crying. It was just a very emotional moment. Two very good friends.”
Chapman may have let his emotions get the best of him as he headed home with the tournament championship within his reach. A one-time nine-shot advantage kept getting smaller as he got closer to the final hole.
All the time, he was thinking about his former coach George Will, who died two years ago.
“I met him when I was 13, a chance meeting,” he said. “My parents, him and his new girlfriend, who was a family friend, had dinner with another couple and the questions were asked to my dad whether he had any children. It was also asked what do they want to do, and my dad said one wants to be a professional golfer. So George said, “get him up here.’
“So I went through the park on my bike and met him. We went and played a round of golf at his club at Sundridge Park and he said there and then that he would teach me, but I wasn’t turning pro. We would see how things went. And he was right. I won sort of junior stuff and then I won a youth tournament, the English Amateur and played Walker Cup. Then he said, ‘now you can turn pro because you’ve achieved everything you can as an amateur.’”
Will never charged Chapman for lessons and because of everything he did for the European Tour veteran, he will never forget his late coach.
“He was always there at the end of the phone,” Chapman said. “So when he passed away in 2010, it was like losing your best friend, really. He was my father figure and if I hadn’t met him, I don’t think I would be sitting here right now. I just owe everything to him. He had belief in me and never took one penny for a lesson.”
Chapman had to fend off several challengers as the final round progressed.
Sandy Lyle made a run at the lead before settling for 9-under. Hale Irwin would rally to finish third with a score of 10-under, while John Cook, who is perhaps the best golfer to never win a major tournament, kept trying to put the pressure on his playing partner Sunday, but couldn’t get the job done.
“I told Tommy, my caddie, on the ninth hole, I said, we have got a tournament within a tournament here,” Cook said. “We have got to win this other tournament, because guys were shooting 63s and 62s and 64s all over the place.
“We said all week that you’re going to have one round where you can make a lot of birdies. And those guys all did on Sunday. That was pretty impressive if you ask me. The course wasn’t that easy, I promise you that. But that’s exactly how I approached the last 10 holes was a tournament within a tournament.
“I have to win this tournament, that other tournament will play out. And it’s so hard to play with a huge, huge lead like that. But he played, for I’ll promise you, for 70 holes, it was pretty impressive, ball striking wise.
“He missed one drive on 14. Hit it in the water. Other than that, it was, I tell you what, I can’t say it was fun to watch, but it was impressive to watch.”
For his efforts, Chapman earned $378,000, while Cook took home $227,000.
The Senior PGA Championship will return to The Golf Club at Harbor Shores in 2014.