FORMER European Tour winner Gary Emerson is preparing for a long-awaited return to the golf course where he kick-started his career over 30 years ago.
The Remedy Oak pro made his professional debut in the Allied Irish Bank Assistants’ Championship at Foxhills in 1982.
He went on to compete at the sport’s highest level for 14 years, most notably achieving a famous win in the Russian Open in 2004 as well as the personal highlight of playing alongside his golfing idol Greg Norman.
Now the Bournemouth-born man, 50, will return to the Surrey course for the first time to compete in the Senior PGA Professional Championship on May 14-16.
Emerson will be among a host of experienced pros hoping to depose current champion Wraith Grant and claim the Bernard Hunt Memorial Trophy, as well as the lion’s share of a £38,000 prize fund.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Emerson. “I’m hoping to get three good rounds under my belt and finish as well as I can.
“It’ll be good to get out there, it’s the first big event of the year for me, on a good course and just a couple of weeks before the European Senior Tour starts, which I’m aiming to do well in this year.
“It’s always an honour to play in a national event and this one is no exception. I’m especially looking forward to being one of the younger lads for a change.”
The event will signal the start of a busy year for Emerson, who will be hoping to maintain a high level on the course while also continuing to coach to the next generation of rising stars.
“It definitely helps with my coaching to have a good level of experience behind me,” Emerson explained.
“It is always helpful to be able to pass on experiences that you have actually gone through yourself.
“It also gives me an advantage when it comes to looking at the psychological element too, which is very important when you are trying to play golf at a high level.”
Never was Emerson under more pressure than when he got to play with two-time major winner Norman at the Spanish Open.
“I had grown up admiring Greg, so it was an honour to have that opportunity to finally play alongside him,” said Emerson.
“Many golfers dream about playing alongside their idols. It’s dreams like that that make you want to start playing the sport in the first place, and I feel very fortunate to have been able to actually do it.
“Greg was coming towards the end of his career at that point, but he was a great guy to play with and hit some fantastic shots.
“It was a memorable day for me.”