Sir Bob Charles Bows Out At Holden Open
2004 Holden New Zealand Open To Be The Last For Sir Bob
Despite protests from his United States sidekicks on the Champions Tour, Sir Bob Charles confirmed that this week’s Holden New Zealand Open in Auckland would be the last time he contested his country’s Open golf championship.
Double United States PGA champion Dave Stockton and former British and United States amateur champion, Jay Sigel, now prospering on the professional Champions Tour, both tried to convince the world renowned lefthander to change his mind after the Pro-Am round at The Grange yesterday.
But Charles, winner of the 1963 British Open and knighted for services to golf, was unrepentant despite one-putting the first five greens from distances between 10 feet and 50 feet to prove he had not lost all the magic touch from a putter that paid him handsome returns over a professional career which started in 1960. Sir Bob said the 87th Holden New Zealand Open at The Grange from Thursday to Sunday would be his last, although he would continue to play a reduced schedule on the United States Champions, Seniors, tour.
Although he had his emotions under control at the Pro-Am event, it is likely to become a sentimental journey as he walks the 18th fairway for the last time, whether it be Friday or Sunday afternoon. It is 50 years since he won his first New Zealand Open, as an 18-year-old amateur at Heretaunga - in the Wellington’s Hutt Valley area, and he has won the tournament on three further occasions as a professional. His third win came at The Grange in 1970.
“It was not a difficult decision to make,” Charles said. “The only difficult thing is that I’m physically in great shape whereas a year ago I was sidelined with golfer’s elbow [tendonitis]. I’ve never felt better in my life, no aches or pains.”
“Maybe there’s a little bit [of emotion]. But I’m just going out to try and enjoy the moment, wave everyone farewell, and gallop into the sunset.”
Charles said that continued lengthening of courses counted against him and that was hastening the end of his illustrious career even though he should be untroubled by the 6,538 yards of The Grange this week.
“When I came on to the Seniors Tour 18 years ago, the average length of courses was 6,600 to 6,700 yards. Now we’re off the Tiger tees - way back to 7,000 and even 7,100 yards.
“That’s why I’ve had enough, I’m out of my depth. I think they’ve got it wrong - they’re making courses longer when they should be making them shorter and tougher.”
Charles will have 50 years of memories to carry with him around The Grange this week. His professionalism is such that he will play each shot to the best of his ability and it would be wonderful if he was there for the final 18 holes on Sunday.
Whatever his fate, Sir Bob Charles has been, and will continue to be, one of New Zealand’s best sporting ambassadors.