Rob Tanner meets the West Midlands golfer hoping to maintain his long-term focus while reflecting on the most poignant moment of his life.
Nothing could eclipse the poignancy of last season’s victory at the Portugal Masters for Warwickshire golfer Steve Webster.
The 33-year-old from Atherstone defends his title this week, starting today at the Oceânico Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura, and while retaining the title would be a magnificent achievement, Webster believes winning the inaugural event last year, just months after his mother Valerie had died of cancer, will never be surpassed.
Twelve months ago, Webster collapsed in tears into the arms of his caddie John Mulrooney before embracing his father Terry at greenside following his two-stroke victory over Robert Karlsson and the memories are certain to come flooding back this week.
But while Webster is happy to reflect on a memorable week, he is now focused on a new challenge and has been reinvigorated by his performance last week at the Madrid Masters, where he finished joint-13th
“I don’t think I will ever put the loss of mum behind me, ever,” Webster said. “I will never get over the loss.
“It was the most poignant moment ever, not just in my career, and I doubt if I will ever do anything to eclipse that again. It was just amazing and emotional but I have to move on this year. Last year is gone and I have to focus for this challenge now.
“Last year was an amazing week and I was just in the zone. I would love to do it again and play as well as I did last year.”
Once again, Karlsson will pose the biggest threat to Webster’s title. The Swede, who leads the European Tour Order of Merit by £110,000 from double-Major winner Padraig Harrington, is chasing a record third consecutive European Tour victory but he won’t be the only challenger. The Tour’s big hitters will also be in action but Webster is relishing his role of defending champion.
“It is a big difference going into the tournament as a defending champion,” Webster said. “For a start, there are pictures of me up everywhere alongside players like Darren Clarke, which is nice.
“It will be a very tough week because there is a good field this year, a lot of good players and I have to start from square one again.
“The course is looking beautiful. They have grown the rough up this year and it is going to be a lot tougher. I don’t think anyone is going to win with 26 under par this year.”
Webster had been a frustrated man in recent weeks as his inconsistent form cost him at the British Masters at The Belfry and the Dunhill Links Championship at Gleneagles. However, he has sought the advice of close friend Warwick Stevens at Bramcote Golf Club and is now full of confidence again.
Currently in 74th place in the Order of Merit, Webster needs good performances in Portugal and at the Costello Masters in Spain to qualify for the Volvo Masters at Valderrama at the end of the month.
“I have a big couple of weeks ahead of me,” he said. “I want to qualify for the Volvo Masters and to do that, I need to finish in the top 60 on the Order of Merit. I need a couple of good results to make it. I was very frustrated with my form at the British Masters and I didn’t play very well at the Dunhill Links either, but I have worked it out now.
“I wasn’t swinging very well so I went to see Warwick and he had a look and give me a few pointers. I don’t tend to work with a coach but it helps sometimes for another pair of eyes to take a look at your swing.
“I have made a minor adjustment which I have been working on and I am swinging the club a whole lot better.
“I go into this tournament with a lot of confidence because I played really well last week and I should have finished a lot higher than 13th.
“I have got my swing back and I just need to get everything sorted in my mind now, and get rid of the inconsistency.”