Sandy Lyle finally makes debut in Scottish Senior Open at 61

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At 61, Sandy Lyle is not quite ready to ride off into the sunset even if some of his fellow golden oldies are doing just that. Take Tom Watson, for instance.

The celebrated, decorated Kansas veteran, who is so venerated he just about comes with his own marble plinth, has found a new passion for a form of equestrianism which is now fuelling his competitive fire as he slowly winds down his golfing career.

“I’m quite blunt with Tom and say ‘what are you doing on a bloody horse at your age?’,” said Lyle. “If you fall off at our age, you are still feeling it a month later whereas you just shrugged off something like that in your 20s. But he seems to love that competitiveness.”

As for Lyle? Well, the big Scot is still enjoying the new experiences this game of great longevity can dish up.

“I’m 61 and making my debut,” he said with a smile as he looked ahead to his first appearance in the Scottish Senior Open, which gets underway today at Craigielaw.

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For a truly great champion, the will to win remains even if those wins get harder to come by as he climbs the brae on the age front.

While he knocked off a couple of World Hickory Open triumphs in 2014 and 2016 his last tour title on the senior circuit was eight years ago.

“I’d love to have a win or a cup to lift above my shoulders,” said the former Open and Masters champion. “I don’t mind if it is this week or even a nine-hole tournament. Just a win would be very nice.

“At the age of 61, you always keep in the back of your mind that Tom was just one week off 60 and he almost pulled off the biggest victory of his whole career in The Open [in 2009].”

Despite the increasing years, golf remains a work in progress for Lyle. It was ever thus in a game where the search for perfection goes on and on and makes the quest for the Holy Grail look as easy as a birl around the frozen food aisles.

As Bobby Jones observed back in the day, “no one will ever have golf under his thumb”. Lyle is still tinkering here and tampering there and the vast expanse of his back garden in Balquhidder still echoes to the sound of industrious thwacks and clatters.

“It doesn’t get any easier, put it that way,” he said of this rewarding yet maddening pursuit. “I think you work on a few things and you grab hold of a few ideas. I am hitting the ball fairly solidly at the moment. My scoring just doesn’t reflect the way I am hitting it.

“It’s a nice thing having your own practice ground. I just look out the kitchen window, make sure there’s no more s**t weather coming from Loch Lomond and go and batter balls.

“I enjoy doing that and the dogs have a run up and down, picking the balls up, so they get some exercise at the same time.”

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As Lyle prepares for an assault on the Scottish title, the recent death of his former Ryder Cup team-mate, Gordon Brand Jnr, has cast a sombre shadow over the tight-knit senior circuit.

“The wife said to me in the morning that he had died and I said, ‘what?’,” reflected Lyle. “It just hit you like that. It seems he’d just had a week of not feeling good.

“It shows you that we need to keep in check with our health, no matter what it is. Even though you might feel alright, you need to be careful.

“I had a medical about three months ago. They do heart echo sounds, blood tests, all that kind of thing, and it looked pretty good.

“I’ve had the odd medical check over the years in the US or the odd one for insurance purposes, but this one was a good screening.

“On my side of the family there is a heart issue so I was pleased that the echo sound was pretty good. My blood pressure is not great … but that’s just golf.”

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