European Senior Tour golf event raises massive sum for Welwyn Garden City’s Willow Foundation

PUBLISHED: 10:30 02 September 2016 | UPDATED: 10:43 02 September 2016

Willow Foundation co-founder Bob Wilson talks to the public on the first tee

Willow Foundation co-founder Bob Wilson talks to the public on the first tee


The inaugural Willow Senior Golf Classic, held at Marriott Hanbury Manor Hotel & Country Club, has been hailed as an overwhelming success after raising over £120,000 for Welwyn Garden City’s Willow Foundation.

The tournament is a new addition to the European Senior Tour’s UK schedule, and was held in collaboration with the Special Days charity, Willow.

Founded in 1999 by ex-Arsenal and Scotland footballer, Bob Wilson, and his wife, Megs, the foundation works to provide Special Days for seriously ill young adults, and was created in memory of their daughter Anna who lost her life to cancer at the age of 31.

Hanbury Manor was asked to host the tournament by its founder, Duncan Sinclair, a past club captain and someone who has close links with the charity.

Hanbury took to the challenge gladly, producing a spectacularly well-presented course and venue that Bob was ecstatic about.

He told Welwyn Hatfield Times: “I know the players and talking to them, they love it because they feel like they’re giving something back as well through the charitable sector.

“Hanbury Manor have been amazing; they’ve set up the course well and all our supporters from Willow who are here have all come and said ‘we realised it wasn’t going to be the normal Willow event and it was going to be a bit bigger but we didn’t realise it was going to be what it is’.

“The bottom line is it spreads the awareness and the charity will benefit financially.”

Prior to the main event were two Pro-Am days that were also held to raise additional funds for the charity, with Bob competing.

Particular highlights of these days were successive hole-in-ones made by Placid Gonzales and Mark Pears.

These two shots alone automatically triggered a donation of £20,000 for the charity.

Over 2,000 spectators came through the gates to watch the action unfold over the main three day tournament, and the drama was high in the closing holes as Mike Harwood seemed to be closing in on Gary Marks’ seemingly impenetrable lead.

Marks hung on to his two-shot advantage however to claim the title of Willow Senior Golf Classic 2016 champion.

Marks said: “The tournament has been a great addition to the European Senior Tour, and a highlight in the schedule.

“The course and venue were great, and I hope the Willow Senior Golf Classic at Hanbury Manor will become a regular feature on the schedule.”

Within the field was one-time Major winner Ian Woosnam who captured the US Masters in 1991 and he too was complimentary about the event.

Speaking after his opening round at Hanbury Manor, Woosnam told Welwyn Hatfield Times: “It’s great for us senior golfers to come and support something like this and make everyone aware of what they’re doing. It’s a really good cause.

“I’ve known Bob for a long time and I know exactly when he started this thing off so it’s nice to see what it’s grown into now. The organisation has been great as well.”

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