BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Roger Chapman admits he may have underachieved at times during his career.
That’s part of the reason this last week was so special.
Chapman cruised to a 1-over 72 in the final round Sunday to win the Senior PGA Championship by two strokes over John Cook. It wasn’t really that close. Chapman led by five shots at the beginning of the day and by nine after a birdie at No. 7. He bogeyed the last two holes — when he needed only to avoid total disaster to hold on.
“I would probably give myself a B- for my European Tour career. There were tournaments that I should have closed out and I think not winning early in my career — and I was expected to win early in my career — had a negative effect on the way I played,” Chapman said. “The guys back home and my wife, they have all been watching the TV and they said, they cannot believe how good I looked on the golf course, how in control.”
Prior to this week, the only real highlight of Chapman’s pro career was a win in Brazil at a European Tour event in 2000. The European Senior Tour has held only one tournament this year, so Chapman hadn’t played many competitive rounds before coming to Harbor Shores.
The Englishman was a surprise leader after the first round, shared the lead after the second — then took control of this major championship over the final 36 holes.
“Today or this week, having led from wire-to-wire, that to me is the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” Chapman said.
Chapman finished at 13-under par. Cook was second after a 69, and Hale Irwin was another stroke back after a 68.
Kenny Perry had a tournament-record 62 to finish five shots behind in ninth place.
Chapman could trace this win back 40 years, when he was a 13-year-old with hopes of playing professionally. That’s when he met a man named George Will, who became his mentor.
“When he passed away in 2010, it was like losing your best friend,” Chapman said. “He was my father figure and if I hadn’t met him I don’t think I would be sitting here right now. ... He had the belief in me to work with me and never took one penny for a lesson. It was all for free. Not one penny.’”
Chapman became the first player since Irwin in 2004 to win the Senior PGA Championship after holding at least a share of the lead following each round. Chapman’s third-round 64 helped him pull away from Cook, and he extended his lead on the front nine Sunday.
Chapman birdied Nos. 4 and 6, and after another birdie on the par-4 seventh, he led by nine. At that point, the only suspenseful race was for second place.
“I can’t say it was fun to watch, but it was impressive to watch,” Cook said. “He’s a good man, though. I’m happy for him. We know what he’s been through.”
Cook made birdies on Nos. 9, 13 and 14, and he trailed by only four after Chapman bogeyed the par-4 14th. But Cook missed a 5-foot birdie putt at No. 15, a par 5 that was the easiest hole on the course during the tournament.
A bogey on No. 17 trimmed Chapman’s lead to three strokes, but he kept his tee shot in the fairway on No. 18. Chapman missed the green with his approach, but so did Cook. On an emotional walk toward the 18th green, Chapman took his hat off to acknowledge the crowd, then eventually gathered himself and calmly finished with another bogey to win by two.
There were plenty of low scores Sunday, even as the temperature hovered around 90 degrees at the 6,822-yard course. Perry began the day 15 strokes behind the leader, so winning was never realistic, but he put on a clinic, shooting 31 on each nine. Perry broke the Senior PGA Championship record for a single round of 63 set by Arnold Palmer in 1984 and Buck White in 1961, although they both did it on par-72 courses.
“I knew I wasn’t going to catch Roger,” Perry said. “I was just going at every stick and didn’t really care, didn’t have any fears or thoughts, and I wish I could learn to play golf like that every day.”
Peter Senior shot a 63 on Sunday — including a 28 on the back nine — and tied with four other players at 9 under. Sandy Lyle and Joe Daley were in that group, too. They shot 64.
Chapman is second in the Schwab Cup standings behind Michael Allen.