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83rd KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship: Adilson da Silva’s path to the U.S. was a unique one

FRISCO, Texas – Adilson da Silva had never been to the United States.

The statement seems logical for most people but for a man that has played professional golf since 1994, it’s mind boggling that he has never teed it up in the U.S., let alone set foot in the country. It’s even more puzzling that a player in his position would be in the running for a major title, but nonetheless, da Silva is making the most of his inaugural trip.

The 51-year-old Brazilian got his start in golf as a caddie after meeting a man buying tobacco in his hometown. The chance meeting would be the start of a decades-long career spanning more than six continents.

He showed promise as a player by winning the 1990 and 1991 Brazilian Amateur Open Championship. With those wins under his belt, de Silva took a leap of faith thanks to a friend that helped him settle his life in Zimbabwe.

“I met a gentleman called Andy Edmondson and became good friends,” da Silva told reporters following his second round Friday at PGA Frisco. “And after a year or two he invited me to go to Zimbabwe and that’s when golf started. So I was really fortunate to get a break. Brazil those days golf was a very closed society. My parents weren’t able to afford it. So I was really fortunate to start the golf.”

The opportunity to play golf professionally was something he simply could not pass up. Not knowing a single word in English, da Silva learned the language over the course of a couple of years before moving from Zimbabwe to South Africa to begin his life as a touring golf pro.

Once established in South Africa, de Silva began playing on the Sunshine Tour full time on the in 1995 where he racked up 12 wins from 1997 to 2012. In 2018, he ended a six year winless drought, taking home the Mercuries Taiwan Masters by one stroke.

With his best years seemingly behind him and two young children to raise, da Silva came close to calling it a career during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My wife and I, we sat down and we had to almost like make a fresh lens somewhere,” da Silva told Golfweek. “And then we just decided to give it a go at the seniors in Europe and just see how they go. Obviously, I got the invite at my first event at the Legends Tour and finished third and got an exemption into the next event and so I just sort of started getting momentum there.”

His big break came in 2022 at the PGA Seniors Championship.

“I won one at the PGA in Formby and then that gave me the exemption to play all the other ones (tournaments) so that was a big deal for me. So now I can stay on the tour and do what I love doing.”

The win reignited da Silva’s career. He finished second in the 2022 Order of Merit, allowing him to come to earn exemptions into the 2023 Senior PGA Championship and 2023 U.S. Senior Open. Before landing in Dallas this past Sunday, da Silva won his second Legends Tour event, this time in Austria.

Coming into the event in winning form, da Silva’s American welcoming is going about as well as one can expect given the travel and demands that Fields Ranch requires.

“This is top notch,” da Silva said to Golfweek. “It’s (Fields Ranch) is a beautiful golf course but it can also be a monster.”

So far, the East Course has been tamed by the Brazilian. Through two rounds da Silva is 6 under and tied for fifth.

He’s joined by a who’s who of the PGA Tour Champions, all trying to chase down Padraig Harrington.

The three-time major winner has yet to make a bogey all week, using his length to pick apart the new home of the PGA of America. Following an opening round eight under 64 with another bogey-free round of 68, Harrington is clear of the field by three strokes as the championship hits the halfway point.

“You want to be a little bit freer and take a few more chances. But sometimes when you’re leading you just get a little bit cautious,” he said. “That’s why, I suppose it happens all the time in golf, it’s very, very difficult for a leader to move away from the field. It’s easy for the field to chase him down. Because there’s a bit of freedom. They have nothing to lose. So obviously I have another 36 holes of that coming up, so it’s going to be a long weekend for me.”

Katsumasa Miyamoto (9 under), Stewart Cink (8 under) and Steve Stricker (7 under) are within striking range of Harrington while Darren Clarke, Y.E. Yang, Alex Cejka are tied with da Silva at 6 under.

For da Silva, the taste of American golf is something he will definitely be back for.

“I had a chance to come and I never did and it was a big mistake. So, but I may come back to the Tour school at the end of the year for the PGA Tour Champions.”

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