Veteran Zimbabwean golfer Tony Johnstone returned to the country where he claimed his first European Tour title on a new emotional journey, as he sought to win a third European Senior Tour title in honour of his late mother at the Belas Clube de Campo Senior Open de Portugal.
The tournament teed off yesterday. Johnstone’s mother passed away last week and having been at her side, the Bulawayo-born golfer is now more determined than ever to add to his trophy haul at Belas Clube de Campo, just outside Lisbon, in memory of her.
“I flew back to Durban to see my mother and I got to spend five days with her before she passed away.
There was a lot said and we got to say everything we wanted to say to each other,” explained Johnstone.
“That was very nice to be able to do that and now I feel I have something to prove this week. I promised I’d win one for her and maybe the time is now. It wasn’t a difficult decision to come out here this week. I was always going to come out, but I’m even more determined now to get another win for my mother.”
Last week’s bereavement was the latest in a series of challenges for the 55-year-old in recent years.
Johnstone was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2003 after a long and successful career on the European tour, before making a miraculous recovery which culminated in a return to professional golf and the Senior Tour in 2006.
He went on to claim an emotional first Senior Tour victory in the Jersey Seniors Classic in 2008 before winning again at the 2009 Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters.
There is no place more fitting to capture his first win in two years than the country where he sealed his first of six European Tour wins, in Quinta do Lago in 1984, when he claimed the Portuguese Open with a three-shot victory over England’s Michael King.
He also finished well the last time the Senior Open de Portugal was held in 2006, finishing in fourth spot, six shots behind winner Carl Mason.
“I’ve always loved playing in Portugal for some reason. I’ve always felt at home here, with the people, the weather and the beautiful golf courses,” he continued.
“As we all know, comfort is a big thing when playing golf and I’ve always felt really comfortable out here.”
He joins a strong field at Belas Clube de Campo battling for the €300 000 prize fund on offer this week, including Mason, who can claim the title of defending champion after his win in 2006.