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Langer is making the most from growing old gracefully

This must feel very familiar to Bernhard Langer:

 Bernhard Langer is out in front at Royal Porthcawl after he carded a 66 during the second round. Picture: Getty Sport
Bernhard Langer is out in front at Royal Porthcawl after he carded a 66 during the second round. Picture: Getty Sport

he is once more chasing big money in seniors golf. The 56-year-old German is already £15m to the good since he turned 50 back in 2007 and, as Colin Montgomerie is quickly discovering, the older playgrounds of the professional game provide plenty of opportunities to enhance your sense of self-worth as well as your bank balance.

The Senior Open Championship is currently being staged at Royal Porthcawl on the beautiful south Wales coast, and they are all here: Langer, Montgomerie, Tom Watson, Fred Couples, David Frost, Bob Tway and a horde more. Langer yesterday shot a 66 to go to 11 under-par and holds a commanding lead going into the weekend.

Langer, Montgomerie, Couples and the rest can make an absolute killing in this environment. But seniors golf is still a strange place. There are plenty guys on this circuit that no-one in their right mind can have heard of: Claude Grenier, Giuseppe Cali (no, not the Maltese painter), Kevin Spurgeon and others. Almost unique among sports, golf allows athletes to win more and grow richer as they get older.

This week, more than most in the seniors game, the march of time has been noted. A generation of these European players, once the world's best in the gloried 1980s, grew up and played at a time when the late Bob Torrance was an ever-present on the practice-ranges.

Torrance's funeral took place on Thursday in Greenock, where his son, Sam, gave the eulogy. But the loss has been felt all across golf, as has been very apparent here in South Wales.

"I didn't know anybody who didn't love Bob Torrance," said Langer yesterday. "I'd known him for a number of years, and we always shook hands, we always said 'hello', he always stopped to chat. To me, he was a great gentleman, a wonderful figure to look up to.

"Bob was very giving, he helped a lot of people. It has been a difficult loss, not just for the Torrance family, but for a lot of the friends he made over the years. And Bob had lots of friends. He had that out-going personality, a man who was easy to be with."

Mark James, the former Europe Ryder Cup captain, said the greatest memory he had of Torrance was of his near-reverence for Ben Hogan and the mythical "Hogan swing".

"I never worked with Bob but I used to see him often," said James. "I'd often stay with Sam at Wentworth and Bob would be around. We used to argue a lot about the Hogan swing: not about whether it was the best, but how you interpreted the swing. We used to have lengthy discussions about what Hogan was trying to do, to get his swing where it was.

"Bob was a good teacher and a larger than life character, even if half the time you couldn't understand his accent. He was one of those guys you just really enjoyed being around."

Langer, James, Montgomerie and other former alumni make the senior tours what they are: a certain excuse to wallow in nostalgia and recall the old days, while still coining it in. It is a good gig if you can get it.

At the other end of the scale, you have the senior caddies. What a bunch they are: an entire assortment of men and women, young and old, who have somehow come to a job where they travel the world, heaving clubs in and out of airports, and more often than not staying in two-star hotels rather than the plush resorts into which the top players book themselves.

Yesterday I met a typical such caddie: Lisa Malaws, who works on the senior circuit for the Argentinian player, Luis Carbonetti. Other than close family and friends, most people have heard of neither of them. As a caddie, Malaws is a world away from the wealth of golf: a sweet-natured woman who usually gets paid cash in hand by her employer, and who lives in hope of a big pay-cheque one day.

I stopped by the practice green yesterday at Porthcawl to chat to this caddie as she got her boss's bag ready. "I originally learned my trade carrying clubs for a guy called Bob Menne," she said. "His great claim to fame was that he won the 1974 Kemper Open on the US Tour. Later in his life he came over to Europe to play seniors and he was a fussy guy - I had to clean his clubs in a certain way, things like that. But I learned the ropes under him.

"I'm a full-time caddie out here on the senior tour. I'm not ambitious to get on the main tour; I enjoy the atmosphere of the seniors.

"My guy, Luis Carbonetti, is currently the reigning champion of the Senior Argentinian Open. He's had a couple of wins on this tour. I've caddied for various players and you've got to look out for yourself. Sometimes the guys have wives or friends or girlfriends that come and caddie and we professional caddies can get overlooked a bit."

I asked Lisa what she gets paid for her tournament labours: a seven per cent cut? More? Less? "I'm not a great business lady; I rely on the guys to treat me fairly," she replied. "I just stand at the teller machine and get my money in my hand from them. That's how I do it."

Montgomerie, by the way, is still hanging on to Langer's tail here in Wales. The reigning US Senior Open and US Senior PGA champion added a 66 yesterday to his opening score of 72, although he has it all to do at the weekend.

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