By Brian Keogh
Des Smyth will begin his sixth season on the Champions Tour without his long-time caddie Ray Latchford.
Dubliner Latchford, 60, has decided to retire after an illustrious career that saw him tote the bag for Ryder Cup stars Smyth, Eamonn Darcy and Philip Walton.
Smyth and Latchford were together for 14 years though their relationship began more than 30 years ago in the Home International Matches at Royal Lytham.
Smyth said: "It has been gruelling going back and forth to America, doing between seven and nine trips across the Atlantic for the last five years.
"I think Ray just decided that he has got the stage where he has had enough of travelling. We have been friends going way back and we are still great friends."
Smyth and Latchford made history on St Patrick's Day in 2001, when the Drogheda player became the oldest winner in the history of the European Tour in the Madeira Island Open at 48 years and 34 days.
The following year, the pair teamed up to win the Champions Tour Qualifying School in Florida.
Smyth has since gone on to win twice on the US Seniors circuit and twice more on the European Seniors Tour, earning more than $4.2 million (€2.82 million).
He is already actively searching for a replacement for Latchford before he begins his 2008 Champions Tour campaign in the Allianz Championship in Florida from February 8-10.
Smyth added: "Ray was a big help to me and we did well, I have to say. I have somebody in mind as a replacement but I haven't sorted things out. I have an American candidate in mind this time."
Latchford and Smyth were reunited for Links Golfing Society outing at Portmarnock Links yesterday but did not return a score.
Dun Laoghaire three handicapper Colum Abernethy took the gross prize in the Waterford Crystal/Rite Price Tiles sponsored event with a level par 71.
Peter O'Hagan was the leading professional with 72.