Fast & Fascinating Facts: Kiwi Ahead of his Time & Our Oldest Club Turns 125

Sir Bob Charles wins The Open in 1963
Sir Bob Charles wins The Open in 1963

Today’s golfing fast and fascinating facts. What Kiwi legend was the first lefty to win The Open? What is the oldest club in New Zealand?

Sir Bob – A Man Far Ahead of His Time

Kiwi Golf legend Bob Charles may not have attracted the same global attention as those more illustrious contemporaries he played against, such as jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, but, in his own way, he was very much a trailblazer very much deserving of mention in the same breath as the ‘Big 3,’ the quartet taking golf not only to a new level but also to a new and different audience.

At that time, in the 1960s and ‘70s, for whatever reason, there were very few left-handed golfers playing the game, let alone at an elite level, and when Bob Charles won the 1963 Open Championship, he was not only playing against that illustrious threesome but also previous Open winners, Australians Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle, all of whom he overcame to win the £1,500 first prize with just the minor inconvenience of a play-of against American Phil Rodgers.

The quiet Kiwi, who is naturally right-handed became the first left-handed player in 92 Open Championships and 228 ‘Major’ golf championships in total, quite a record and a remarkable milestone and he remains today, at the grand old age of 84-years-old, only the second ‘Lefty’ to have held the Claret Jug aloft, followed by Phil Mickelson, exactly 50-years after the New Zealander’s groundbreaking achievement.

Sir Bob Charles
Sir Bob Charles

History & Heritage

The oldest golf club in New Zealand is the venerable Manawatu Golf Club in Palmerston North, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, having been formed, first as a nine-hole layout in 1895 before being extended to 18 holes in 1904, making it by just one-year ahead of Napier Golf Club.

The verdant parkland course of today, a fine 6,495-yard Par-72 course is a far cry from the original layout, carved into rough scrubland 125-years-ago and has hosted the prestigious, professional New Zealand Open on five occasions and the New Zealand Amateur Championship eight times.

But, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, events to celebrate the 125th anniversary of New Zealand’s oldest golf club – Manawatu Golf Club – are to be held over until 2021.

Manawatu Golf Club entrance
Manawatu Golf Club entrance

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