Tony Flanagan capped his return from major surgery by being crowned Lancashire Seniors county golf champion for the first time.
The Clitheroe golfer’s entrance into the over-55 ranks had been delayed by a back problem which required an operation and intensive physiotherapy to even get back out on the golf course.
With the 58 year-old also suffering problems with the tendons in his right arm, it looked like his chance to be part of the thriving seniors scene in the Red Rose county was passing him by.
But at Blackpool North Shore golf club, the months of hard work, both out on the range and on his rehabilitation programme, paid off in style as he claimed the title for the first time with a three-shot victory.
Flanagan paved the way for his victory with an opening round of 70, one under par over the challenging seaside course, which was matched by Karl Bowker of Bolton Old Links.
And he held off the chasing pack with a second day 74 to leave last year’s winner, Trevor Foster from Accrington Golf Club, in second place.
But the outgoing champion paid a fulsome tribute to his rival and friend, saying: “I have always said football is the best game in the world, but golf is the greatest – and one of the reasons for that is the friendships you make.
“So I am not disappointed to be runner-up because I am chuffed for the man who has won.”
Flanagan, too, paid tribute to the backing he has received as he battled back from surgery.
“To be honest, I was a bit choked,” said the Whalley man, who is playing his first full season in the senior ranks.
“I have received so much support from people.
“This was a championship I always felt I could win, but that doesn’t mean it was going to happen.
“So I am delighted to have come out on top of a high quality field.”
Flanagan had clubmate Mark Ashworth, a former Lancashire county champion, on the bag for the first round and it proved a successful combination.
“Mark is a good friend of mine and he felt that the course would suit my game,” said the new champion.
“He helped me plot the right lines round the course and then on the second day it was a case of getting round safely to post a total.
“I must admit I had a good feeling about the course when I arrived.
“I have worked hard on my game and have been striking the ball well.
“And I holed some important three or four footers on the last five holes to make sure I didn’t drop any shots late on.”
Tony will now head north for the Scottish Seniors as his next assignment while he is also hoping to play his part in Lancashire’s bid to become national champions again.
Rob Godley (Hillside Golf Club) finished third behind Flanagan and Foster, while the age group category winners included former Lancashire county captain Cliff Bowman, who took the honours in the over 70 group at the age of 77.
Two other Clitheroe golfers also put in creditable performances.
Gary Byrne finished in fourth place on 149, with the 2015 and 2016 champion Tony Holt just one shot behind on 150.