It's a family affair for Langer

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 November, 2008, 12:00am

Seventeen years after he turned the Hong Kong Open into a one-man show, Bernhard Langer is back for a trip down memory lane, and the 51-year-old has brought his son along to savour it even more.

Stefan Langer, 18, will be caddying for his dad, one of the many famous winners to be invited back for this week's 50th bash.

'It is a wonderful celebration, 50 years of the Hong Kong Open. I have some wonderful memories here and I have brought my son to caddie for me which is always a special treat,' said Langer, who won in 1991.

It will be bonding time for the father of four. Stefan is due to leave home for college and Langer decided the road trip would be the ideal way to spend some quality time with his second child.

'My son caddies for me a couple of times a year. He has never been to Hong Kong so this is a unique trip for him. I also get the chance to spend time with him as he will be going to college in a few months so my time with him is limited,' said Langer.

When he was invited back by the organisers for this year's special tournament, Langer had no hesitation in accepting.

He smiles when asked if he could repeat his success and in the process become the oldest player to win the Open.

'I don't think about it. It is not my thing to break records,' said Langer. 'If it happens, great. I am here to play the best I can and hopefully that will be enough to win, but there are a lot of good players and it is not going to be easy. My motivation is not to be the oldest player to win but to play as good as Bernhard Langer can and if I can do that, I should compete.'

In 1991, the German compiled a brilliant eight-under-par 63 on the final day to seal an emphatic victory with a total of 15-under 269.

Langer confesses he can't remember much about that victory. Names of his opponents are lost in the mists of time. 'I remember hitting a lot of quality shots and making some crucial putts. I also remember two or three players snapping at my heels.'

They're still snapping at his heels these days. A trim-looking Langer has had a fantastic 2008, finishing atop the Champions Tour money list - run by the US PGA Tour for golfers over 50 - and also picked up a win on the European Senior Tour.

'It is brilliant to be with the old boys as we call them. The Champions Tour suits me very well. There are a lot of guys my age and we can relate to each other, we are at the same stage in life.

'We realise we are only going to be playing this game a few more years. It is not so much of a grind as on the regular tour where the pressure seems overwhelming. But we all have goals on the Champions Tour as well. It is competitive, just a little more fun,' he said.

Winner of the US Masters in 1985 and 1993, and the world's first number-one ranked player - when the official world rankings were introduced in 1986 - Langer does not have any regrets, especially about missing the huge amounts of money on offer nowadays. The Race to Dubai, which the Hong Kong Open is part of, for instance offers prize money of US$10 million.

'It is fantastic. But we have similar things on the US Tour. It is very exciting for these youngsters to be playing for that much money and to have the opportunity. It is great for the game and creates a lot of interest.'

But Langer says it was not always a case of being feted, as he will be this week.

'When I was 18 and joining the tour, I had to go on buses and trains, bring my own shag bag with range balls, send my caddie out to pick them up or pick them up myself. I couldn't afford to fly and we were staying in places where there were bugs crawling on the ceiling. It was tough.

'We don't have that now. We have courtesy cars, Titleist range balls, players' lounges and things like that. Life is very different.

'But for every successful golfer, there are hundreds or a thousand who are struggling. We don't hear too much about them as no one cares about that.'

The year one of the most popular tournaments in Asia is born: '59

The Open is number one in Hong Kong, thanks to its position as the oldest professional sporting event in town: 1

The purse at the first Open, donated by the South China Morning Post, a far cry from this year's US$2.5 million: GBP1,000

You'll see them all over the course - the number of volunteers: 490

The donation made to Operation Santa Claus from fund-raising activities last year: HK$272,465

The tournament will figure twice - this year and next year - in the European Tour's 2009 Race To Dubai: 2

The number of titles won by the most prolific Open winner, Taiwan's Hsieh Yung-yo (1963-64, 1975 & 1978): 4

Sweden's Daniel Chopra stepped on a cobra on the 11th hole two years ago. 'It was at least six or seven feet but looked more like 10,' he said: 6ft

The distance in yards of the Composite Course at Fanling: 6702

The baby of the field this year will be Hong Kong-born, Orlando-based Jason Huk Shun-yat, who is: 14