Sir Bob tees off at Pro Am

Sir Bob Charles on the 18th hole. Photos: Bruce Barnard.

The Carrus Tauranga Open began today with a Pro Am competition, teed off by the legendary Sir Bob Charles.

The New Zealand golfer is in town especially for today's prelude to the main tournament, which is itself the final event of the Jennian Homes Charles Tour.

Sir Bob says he tries to make it to as many of the tournaments as he can, and generally plays in the Pro Am before the main event.

He likes to keep up with who is winning.

“Ben Campbell, he's on form at the moment. He comes from my home territory of Wairarapa, too.”

Naturally, Sir Bob's played many courses over the years, but the Tauranga golf course at Greerton should always keep in his mind.

“One of my 11 holes-in-one was on this course – about the fifth hole, I think. I've also won two tournaments on this course in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“It's not a back-breaker, but it is demanding enough for these young people playing a 72-hole event.”

He considers the tournament good training for competition golf, and thinks it's important to get more people playing the sport.

“People don't have the time these days for the four-and-a-half hours it takes to play a game,” he says.

“It's on the decline, but it's the game of a lifetime. You can play it from nine to 90 years of age, and it's social. We've got the facilities, too – I think there's around 400 golf courses in New Zealand.”

Henry prepares to whack the cards out of a volunteer's mouth.

President Donald Trump is on record saying Sir Bob is New Zealand's greatest golfer – in fact, it might be one of the few things he knows about our country.

But what does Sir Bob think?

“I've never met Donald Trump. But I came to his attention in '62, when he noticed me playing in a tournament in Florida – it was an open tournament for left-handers. He told my son I won it by 20 points, which was pretty close, as I won it by 21.

“He really loves the game of golf. I played his course in Florida several years later and wrote him a letter saying how much I enjoyed it, particularly the waterfall feature on the 17th hole. He wrote back and thanked me himself.”

Sir Bob's son David has also met the United States president. He's currently a tournament director for PGA of America, working with Eric Trump on tournaments played at Trump golf courses.

Before today's Pro Am, golfers and spectators were also treated to a magic show by golfing magician and pro Henry Epstein. A crowd of about 40 watched the golfing maestro attempt a few mid-air swings, which often missed, although he did succeed in smacking a couple of the balls onto the green.

There were also some shots with a flaming golf club, and a little bit of sleight of hand with golf balls.

Perhaps the most interesting shot was whacking two balls at once, sending one off onto the green, and the other up in the air, which he caught with his hat.

All in all, a little bit of fun before the serious business of the tournament kicks off.

The Carrus Tauranga Open is taking place from April 19 – 23, with a Pro Am today preceding the main tournament which starts tomorrow.

Golf magician Henry Epstein.


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