Tom Tyne, Vic Nunn and Pat King are shining examples of how golf can help you to live a longer, healthier and happier life.
Their stories back up a recent Australian study that officially found golfers in NSW and the ACT were happier, healthier and more connected to their communities that the average non-golfer.
The report found that golfers, especially those aged over 45, are less likely to suffer from the effects of chronic diseases brought about from physical inactivity, like coronary heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and stroke. Golfers are also more likely to volunteer in their communities and overall golf benefits the NSW economy by more than $1,272,985,780 a year.
Golf NSW commissioned well known golf writer ROD MORRI to tell their stories.
Tuesday is golf day for 84-year-old Pat King (and every second Thursday), but preparations begin on Monday.
Pat likes to make sure everything is in place in the golf bag ahead of time to avoid any sense of rushing before heading to the course.
“I treasure those days,” Pat says of her regular games at Port Kembla Golf Club, near Wollongong.
“When it comes up on a Tuesday I’ve got golf to look forward to and every second Thursday I play in the veterans, and I love that just as much.
“I think it’s important to keep playing as long as you can.”
A latecomer to the game after a lifelong interest in hockey, Pat says despite her handicap going out in recent years she loves the game – and the social interaction it brings – as much as she ever has.
“I never really want to play with A-Graders very much any-more because I can’t keep up with them,” says the former B Grade pennant player.
“I’m on 37 handicap now, but I did get down to 19. It doesn’t worry me though (her handicap going out) as long as I can go to golf.
“I think it’s important to keep contact with people. If I didn’t have golf to go to I would probably be doing something at home and not getting out and talking to people.”
“I treasure those days,” Pat says of her regular games at Port Kembla Golf Club.
Pat, who walked the course until just a couple of years ago when a particularly hot day saw her unable to finish her round, says the game has given her a lot since she took it up 25 years ago.
“I share a cart these days, but up until a year or two ago I would walk every round, and I think that is a huge help to keeping fit and healthy,” she says.
“I remember a few years ago playing with a lady I know who is 90, and she still walked the course at the time which I thought was just remarkable.
“But it’s just such a wonderful game in so many ways. I always enjoyed the challenge of it as well as being out on the course itself and the surrounds.
“And I’ve made some very special friends thanks to the game as well.”
There are many recurring themes touched on by those who continue to enjoy golf in their later years.
Like Pat, 85-year-old Vic Nunn says social contact is one of the most important reasons to keep playing even when the game isn’t as sharp as it perhaps once was.
He’s playing less golf than he once did but says he looks forward to his outings more these days than at any time in the past.
A golfer for more than 60 years, Vic says in recent times the game has become less about swings and scores and much more about the chance to be in the company of others.
Vic lives on his own in Canberra, and while he has some help from social services, he remains fiercely independent. Even insisting on mowing the lawns at the home where he has lived for 50 years.
“Walking, whether it’s on the course or elsewhere, is a fantastic pastime,” Vic Nunn says.
But about once a month he and a group of friends go away on a golf trip to some far-flung part of the state, and for Vic, these expeditions have become priceless.
“Basically, golf to me is company,” he says.
“I don’t play every week any more, but about 11 times a year there is a group of us that go away to play, everywhere from Port Macquarie and Wauchope to Rich River over at Moama.
“I really look forward to those trips and getting together and just being with other people. When you live on your own that becomes really important.”
Introduced to the game when he was ‘about 19 or 20’, Vic says golf has been a significant part of his life ever since.
A long-time member at both Federal Golf Club in Canberra and Bega in southern NSW he played weekly, and walked the course, until just a few years ago.
A hip replacement, a long time aggravating back injury and the prospect of a knee replacement soon have curtailed that part of the game, but Vic credits much of his good health to those decades of traversing the course on foot.
“Walking, whether it’s on the course or elsewhere, is a fantastic pastime,” he says.
“Your mind wanders away, and it’s not only exercising your muscles, it’s exercising your mind as well and keeping it active.
“I miss walking the golf course because in a cart you don’t see the same things as you do on foot. You can see the break and feel how the ground moves underneath you when you walk.
“In a cart, you get to the ball too quick, and it’s not good for your game. When I play, I like to concentrate a bit like a boxer…thinking about the course all the time, not just when I’m getting ready to hit.”
Vic says the game has been such a part of his life for so long that the thought of not having golf to look forward to is difficult to comprehend.
“It’s hard to imagine what life would be without golf,” he says. “Even now I’m dreading saying it’s time to call it a day.
“Going away to play is getting more difficult financially and health-wise, and it will have to stop at some point.
“But I’ll keep on going as long as I can go because it gets me out of the house.”
If Vic is looking for inspiration for his golf future, he need look no further than South West Rocks and Tom Tyne.
Tom is 97 and sharp as a tack, a regular at the northern NSW course and up for a game with anybody, any time.
“If you come up here I’ll take you out for a game,” says Tom by way of introduction. “I’ll play with anybody and give them a good run.”
Tom has been playing golf for almost 70 years, first introduced to the game at Cumberland in Sydney’s West when he was 27.
“I had lessons from a fella called Jack Collins, and he was a good teacher,” says Tom. “I got down to about a four handicap.”
Originally from South West Rocks, Tom moved to Sydney as a teenager for work as an apprentice bricklayer before being called away to war.
“If you come up here I’ll take you out for a game,” says Tom Tyne.
It was when he returned from duty he started playing golf, and he’s been at it ever since.
“What other game could you still be playing into your 90’s?” he asks, before answering his own question cheekily: “Maybe Lotto, but you can’t win at that!”
Like Vic, Tom has trouble walking the entire course these days, so rides a cart but says he makes a point of getting out and walking quite a bit as well.
He credits his ability to still play well despite advancing years to maintaining muscle in his arms, crucial if you’re to play half decent, he says.
“I’m hitting the ball pretty well even though I’m off 23,” he says. “I’ve always had a bit of muscle in my arms and if I have that I know I’m going to go out there and do all right.”
Tom used to play twice a week but has recently reduced that to once, though he has other interests to keep him busy as well.
A part-time artist and fisherman, he can often be found on the South West rocks headland just chatting with passers-by.
“People come from all over to visit here, and it’s always interesting to hear their stories,” he says.
“I often go for a walk up there and just sit on the bench and say hello as they come past. There’s always someone to talk to.”
Tom has no plans to give up golf any time soon and says he will continue to play his weekly game, and amaze visitors to the club, for as long as possible.
“Since I’ve been back at South West Rocks (Tom returned to the area 12 years ago) I’ve played with a lot of people, and they’re always amazed I can beat them on the day,” he says.
“Everyone comes up and shakes my hand now. I’m getting more shakes of the hand and compliments since I turned into the 90s than ever before.
“So I’ll keep playing as long as I can. Golf’s been a big part of my life, and I’ll keep it that way for as long as possible.”
Rod is an award-winning golf journalist with more than 20 years experience and has covered everything from major tournaments to junior golf at the local level. Rod began his life in the media as a daily news reporter for News Limited in Sydney.
See our original story on the Golf in NSW Community Impact Study: