by Chris Tobin
Russell Paul, a golfer of 50 years, likes to set goals when he steps on the golf course.
For several years the 77-year-old retired company accountant has aimed to beat his own age but without success.
On several occasions he has come agonisingly close.
“I missed out twice because I choked on the last three holes.”
One of these occasions hinged on the 18th at the Gleniti Golf Club, a 157m hole playing to an elevated green.
To his chagrin he tapped in for a four.
But Paul persevered and Saturday week ago things changed for the 13-handicapper (he has been as low as 6).
He was playing a round with Bill Vercoe, now of Nelson. They had first played together at Gleniti 40 years ago.
“I was a bit calmer this time. It was one of those days when I was confident about what I was doing.”
The drives flew long and straight, the irons and short play hummed along; the putts which had been a bit problematic in recent times, rattled merrily into the cup.
But yet again, it came down to that dreaded last hole, a straight forward par three most times but which can take on an ugly visage when a top score looms and nerves tighten.
All that was needed was a four. Determined not to “choke,” he played safe with a “rescue” club.
“I was short of the green and chipped to about six or seven foot from the hole. I missed my par and tapped in for four.”
One over par it might have been but the magical number, 76, had been reached.
“I was chuffed,” he said.
As well he might be.
Club records show it might have been 30 or more years since a Gleniti club member has completed an 18 hole round under their age.
“It’s a bit like everything: you set goals. When you start playing it’s to beat 100, then 90, then 80 then to par the course and get a hole-in-one.”
He has achieved all these milestones: his best round came at Gleniti, a one under par 70 some years ago, and a hole-in-one scored again at Gleniti, where he has been a member for 50 years after cricket had been his main sporting interest (good enough to make a New Zealand Brabin Shield team as a swing bowler and to tour Samoa with a Wanderers team in 1964).
He has played golf in several countries: Scotland (at Carnoustie), England, South Africa (at Fancourt, host course of Presidents Cup when held in South Africa), Vietnam, Cambodia and Vanuatu to name some, and regularly travels on golf trips overseas.
Now, the last of his goals – beating his age – has tumbled.
“Every now and again you have a good round where things go right. I like to think I could do it again.”