Major champion Chapman is patience personified

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Roger Chapman is now a known entity on the Champions Tour -- and chasing another major this week.
June 06, 2012
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM correspondent

Golfers know all about the virtue of patience. It is a buzzword that resonates in a game requiring large doses of staying power.

Just ask Roger Chapman. He's been there, done that. If the Englishman didn't have plenty of endurance for the multiple challenges golf offers, he wouldn't be at the Regions Tradition this week as a major champion on the Champions Tour.

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Chapman will tee it up Thursday at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala., as the first major winner of the 2012 season after claiming the Senior PGA Championship two weeks ago at Harbor Shores. He did it in style but, truth is, it's never been easy for Chapman. He's a journeyman in the very finest tradition of the concept. He has worked at his trade. He has plied it in many places and for many years. Winning has never come easily for Chapman, 53, a native of Kenya who is a proud Englishman through and through.

Chapman became the first European in 65 years -- since Jock Hutchinson - to win the Senior PGA Championship. The victory at the Senior PGA Championship completed a long and winding road.

Chapman was an accomplished junior player, the 1979 English Amateur champion and a member of Great Britain and Ireland's 1981 Walker Cup team for the matches against the United States at famed Cypress Point. The United States prevailed on that occasion but Chapman had a memorable competition, twice on the same day defeating a young American star. Chapman won his singles match over Hal Sutton, 1-up. Chapman and his partner, Paul Way, teamed to also defeat Sutton and Jay Sigel, again by 1 hole.

It was at that point, at age 22, that Chapman turned professional with the permission of his late mentor, George Will. After a chance meeting, Will took Chapman under his wing.

"We played a round of golf at his club and he said there and then that he would teach me, but I wasn't turning pro," Chapman said. "We would see how things went."

They went quite well, culminated by the Walker Cup appearance, and Will told Chapman, "Now you can turn pro because you've done everything, achieved everything as an amateur."

"I just owe everything to (Will)," Chapman said. "I wanted to turn pro at 16 and he said no, you're not going to be a shop boy, a shop assistant. Do you want to go out and play golf? And I said yeah. Well, he said, you're not going to turn pro. And he had the belief in me to work with me and never took one penny for a lesson. It was all for free. Not one penny. I bought him the odd glass of wine though."

If Will had been there to enjoy Chapman's victory, no doubt the new champion would have offered him a bottle of fine red.

"He did like his red wine," Chapman said.

Chapman turned professional after the Walker Cup and earned a European Tour card on his first try at the Qualifying School. Winning didn't come quite so easily despite respectable showings -- he finished in the top 100 on the Order of Merit 19 out of 21 years beginning 1982. He had six runner-up finishes before finally winning in 2000 in his 472nd tour start. The Senior PGA Championship was his fourth professional win.

Sandy Lyle, a two-time major winner on the PGA TOUR, has known Chapman for many years. Lyle said the death of Will in 2010 has been a source of motivation for Chapman.

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"He's been a great player for many years but maybe under the radar a little bit," Lyle said. "If you look at his record, he hasn't achieved a massive amount of tournament wins but he's always been a good player.

"He's still a very powerful player. He wants to prove to himself that he's capable of playing this tour. He came through 100 percent and it's a great achievement."

Chapman grades his European Tour career a B-minus.

"There were tournaments that I should have closed out and I think not winning early in my career -- I was expected to win early in my career -- had a negative effect on the way I played and how things happened," he said.

Chapman allowed some leads -- and victories -- to get away. To win wire-to-wire at the Senior PGA Championship was a new and very gratifying development.

"That, to me, is the greatest thing I've ever done," he said.

It was noticed back home in England, too, where Chapman's family and friends were watching with enormous interest.

"They said they cannot believe how good I looked on the golf course," Chapman said. "It's a long learning curve. It took 26 years to learn it."

And plenty of patience.

Champions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. He can be reached at golfstix@aol.com.

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