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Saturday, 28 July, 2001, 19:38 GMT 20:38 UK
O'Sullivan happy to be pro active
Denis O'Sullivan
Denis O'Sullivan is thriving on the European Senior Tour

BBC Sport Online's John Haughey meets an Irishman enjoying a new lease of life on the Senior Tour.

Denis O'Sullivan's rise has been one of the most heart-warming stories to emerge from the European Seniors Tour over the last three years.

The Corkman was a successful golfer on the Irish amateur scene well into his 40s before turning pro in 1998 so he could prolong his competitive career on the seniors tour.

Since then, O'Sullivan has been competing against and beating players whom he describes as his heroes.

He has claimed four European Seniors Tour titles in the last nine months and his latest victories came in Berlin and Stockholm within the last five weeks.

Lingering feeling

"There are only a few of us who went from the amateur ranks to the seniors tour and I suppose on the European Tour I've been the most successful in that category," said the Irishman.

O'Sullivan represented Irish amateur teams well into his late 40s.

But there was still a lingering feeling that the selectors preferred to have younger men in their teams.

"In Ireland when you are over 25 they do not really want to pick you on teams.

"They think:'There are a lot of young guys coming up'.

"I played for Ireland into my 40s but it is generally treated as a young man's sport in Ireland and to a certain degree in England as well.

"In America, guys in their 50s can still get into Walker Cup teams if they are good enough. It is different here. Maybe they're right to bring in the young guys," adds Denis.

America didn't do anything for me. I was made to feel unwelcome
  Denis O'Sullivan

While Denis admires the American amateur selectors, he's not entirely enamoured with all things USA.

He tried his luck at qualifying for the amazingly lucrative US Seniors Tour but it wasn't the most pleasant of experiences as he had to endure downright hostility on occasions.

"I had to have a go because I felt that I would have hated to have got to 60 and never have tried to qualify for the US Seniors Tour.

"But America didn't do anything for me. I didn't really enjoy it. I was made to feel unwelcome - most unwelcome.

"I had to go to pre-qualifying school. I went and had to play with guys who could not play golf. I played in two qualifying round with guys who could not break 100. "After one of the rounds, I remember coming out of the toilet and holding the door open for one guy and when I had opened the first door for him, he banged the second door in my face.

Christy O'Connor
Christy O'Connor met with hostility in the US

"That is the kind of attitude a lot of the guys have.

"They more or less tell you that they do not want you there. As far as they are concerned, you are taking their money and that's it.

"In Europe, we have Americans, Australians, Japanese... guys from everywhere and we make them feel welcome and that is the way it should be.

"I have talked to Christy O'Connor Junior as well as he has found the same thing.

"Of course, It is not the good guys like Jack Nicklaus and Player and Palmer who are making us feel unwelcome.

"It is the guys who are struggling to stay on the bottom and who feel that you are going to take their place. That's life.

"I don't think I will try to qualify for the US Seniors Tour this year.

"I love the European Tour. It is growing and it is home".

Precious points

His brilliant first half of the season means that he could be locking horns with Americans at the UBS Warburg Cup at Kiawah Island in November.

The US will take on the Rest of the World in a Ryder Cup clash featuring seniors golfers and other top players aged 40 and over.

The top two in the European Seniors Order of Merit will earn places in the Rest of the World team and O'Sullivan admits he's "hugely interested" in playing in North Carolina.

All we ever see are airports, hotels and the golf course
  Denis O'Sullivan

With O'Sullivan 13 shots off the lead after three rounds at Royal County Down, he is unlikely to earn too many precious order of merit points this week.

But the UBS Warburg Cup is a great incentive to get his season going again.

"Obviously the Senior British Open is the big event on our tour and the money list is going to change dramatically after this week .

"But I will be in there battling to make the team.

"I plan to play all the remaining events. It makes me determined to work even harder because it's a great potential bonus for the end of the season".

Maurice Bembridge
Maurice Bembridge lost to O'Sullivan in Sweden

Kiawah Island is a tough test but O'Sullivan coped best of the entire field when winning the Palmerston Trophy at the extremely difficult Nick Faldo-course in Berlin during June.

"I won it by four shots playing probably the best golf I have ever played.

"I finished on four-under-par and was the only guy to finish under-par that week".

O'Sullivan admits that Maurice Bembridge "handed me the win in Stockholm" but he still fired closing rounds of 67 and 65 to take the title by a stroke.

The remainder of this year's European Seniors Tour will take him to places like Athens, Egypt and Tunisia although Denis is not expecting to do much sight-seeing.

'Really tiring'

"All we ever see are airports, hotels and golf courses but I'm not complaining. I love what I'm doing".

"People say that I'm lucky going away for 10 weeks in a row.

"The first couple of weeks maybe, but after six or seven weeks on the road it is really very tiring. All we ever see are airports, hotels and the golf course.

"We never see any of the sights you want to because it is work. I am not complaining. I love what I am doing."

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