David Dixon not only romped to a five-shot victory in the Saunton Classic, the opening West Region PGA order of merit event of the year, he made it a double celebration by taking the team award with amateur partner James Symons.
“Just the start to the season I needed,” said the 37-year-old Enmore Park golfer, who is targeting a return to the European Tour as his goal for the season. “I’ve been on and off the Tour since 2001 and I am determined to return.”
Dixon’s five-shot first-round lead after a nine-under return of 62 over the West Course – “it could have been really special as I had 17 putts for birdies” – was never threatened, even though he dropped a shot on the opening hole on the East Course in the second round.
Birdies at the second, sixth and eighth stretched his lead and he came home comfortably in level par with further birdies at the 10th and 15th.
After a round of 69 for a total of 131, Dixon was five clear of Michael Watson (Wessex Golf Centre) who put a string of disappointing Order of Merit returns behind him with a closing best-of-the-day 67, including six birdies.
“The weather was calm and the only chance of David being caught was if it was blowing a gale,” said Watson. “But it’s been a good result for me so early in the season and I prefer to look ahead rather than dwell on whey I haven’t done so well in big events for a few months.”
The highlights of Dixon’s up-and-down career were winning the silver medal as the low amateur in the Open at Royal Lytham in 2001 and the St Omer Open on the European Tour in 2008 and he yearns for the big stage again.
After winning a mini-tour event in Portugal and losing a play-off in another, he feels this could be his season. He plans to compete in the five remaining Order of Merit tournaments and has already scheduled 18 pro-ams in his diary.
“I want to win as often as I can for each one increases your confidence,” said Dixon. “It’s been great to get that feeling of winning again.
“I have practised hard and I want to make my game as sharp as it was a few years ago for I still feel I have several more years at the top.”
Stuart Little (Minchinhampton) claimed third on 137 after carding 70 to finish one ahead of Mark Wiggett (Dudsbury) who also shot a second-day 70.
James Ruth (China Fleet) made the first hole in one of the season – the eighth of his career – at the 113-yard 5th, using a 52-degree wedge.
Symons, Dixon’s regular partner in pro-ams, who plays off seven at Taunton and Pickeridge, improved the team score by six shots. They carded 89 points, two more than Upavon pair Dan Carter and two-handicapper Matt Redgrave.
The leading local pro was Iain Parker, of Royal North Devon, on eight over, one shot ahead of Saunton’s Albert MacKenzie.
Read our Match of the Week feature on the Saunton Classic in Thursday's North Devon Journal