JOAKIM Haeggman has wasted no time in embarking on his Staysure Tour career and makes his over-50s debut at The Sinclair Invitational at Hanbury Manor Marriott Hotel and Country Club, just two days after turning 50.
The Swede has not played in a European Tour event since the 2014 Nordea Masters, but has returned to professional golf at the earliest possible opportunity since becoming eligible to tee it up on the Staysure Tour.
Haeggman, who became the first Swede to compete in the Ryder Cup when he formed part of Bernard Gallacher’s team at The Belfry Resort in 1993, admits he has been counting down the days to this moment.
And he feels that despite a long break from competitive golf, his game is in good shape as he headed to the Hertfordshire course designed by Jack Nicklaus II, who added nine holes to the existing nine-hole Harry Vardon parkland north of Ware on the A10, in 1990.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for quite a long time now,” Haeggman said. “I suppose most guys who are golfers want to do this when they turn 50, so for me, it was an easy choice to come here.
“The game’s not bad. We’ll find out because I think the shots are there and the game is pretty close to what it used to be, which is good for me.
“But the short game needs to be there, the putting needs to be there and the scoring shots need to be there.
“To have the scorecard in the back pocket is going to be a bit different from running around at your home club.”
After turning professional in 1989, Haeggman won three times on the European Tour and twice on the Challenge Tour before leaving the world of professional golf behind in 2014.
After hanging up the clubs for the first time he moved to a different sector within the game.
“I have actually been a sales representative for John Deere where I was responsible for a third of Sweden,” he said.
“I’ve been doing that, selling golf machinery, and also done a bit of travelling and that’s it really. But when it came down to it, I thought ‘I’d like to go and play again’.
“It really started for me back in November of last year. I left my daily job and I got back into the gym and took a few months trying to get myself back into shape, well, some kind of shape anyway.
“I’m sure we’ve all got our own aches and pains out here and I’m just trying to limit mine and get on with it. It’s obviously one of the reasons why I halted and stopped playing on the European Tour.”
As Haegmann took time to hone his touch on the practice green at Hanbury Manor early on Thursday morning, the Swede was interrupted by a number of friendly faces who he had not seen for many years.
“It’s great to see everyone again,” he said. “I had dinner with Mark James last night and it’s nice to sit down and see everybody and have a chat again.
“I think the Staysure Tour will offer me a lot of enjoyment, a chance to play golf and hopefully I’ll be able to make a living out of doing this.
“I’ve said to myself I’ll play this year and then at least a couple more years, so we’ll see where I get to.”
The Sinclair Invitational – renamed this year after founders Corrine and Duncan Sinclair, having been the Willow Senior Classic co-founded by former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson since 2016 – offers a £400,000 prize fund.
That places it in the top tier of tournaments on the Staysure Tour with 4,500 Order of Merit points on offer.
The action at Hanbury Manor will begin at 9.30am on Friday, with Haeggman playing alongside America’s Bob May at 10am.
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