I played golf yesterday with an old pal, Sir Garfield Sobers, at Walton Heath, a test for any golfer, especially off the white tees (as we played it).
I first played against Garry when I was 19 in 1966 and bowled more overs at him than I care to remember. I also played with him in a Rest of the World team in Karachi.
The likes of Garry Sobers only come along once in a lifetime. Many truly great sportsmen develop a charisma after they have packed up, but Garry’s worldwide charisma started even when he was still playing cricket. He turned up, immaculate as usual, with a large sunhat sporting the Sandy Lane, Barbados logo. Once playing off a 2 handicap but now has just reached double figures of a 10. His knees are ‘shot to pieces’ so he took a buggy around the course.
His eye surgeon, Tim Leonard, accompanied us. Tim has operated on Garry’s troublesome eyes twice before and brought him back from virtual blindness. With the vision practically gone in one eye, and the sight in the other just about ‘OK,’ made playing golf quite a challenge. He walks up to the tee with his unmistakable gait and then ‘CRACK’ and with those lightening fast hands the ball still flies down the fairway. On one hole there is a cross bunker in the centre of the fairway, 258 yards off the tee, Garry thudded it into the face. “I used to be able to carry that” he said, but at 73, with dodgy knees and eyes, it was still some feat that few younger men manage. Although some of the ‘savagery’ has left him, the touch around the greens was still there. During the round possibly 20 people came over to him from other games just to shake his hand. Garry, forever the perfect ambassador for Barbados and cricket, made everybody, with their embarrassment for intrusion feel, very comfortable.
We were never hurried and he was always keen and ready to answer questions on Alan Stanford, Peter Short, Seymour Nurse, Arthur Bethall, Tony Cozier, Sylvester Clarke, Michael Holding, Malcom Marshall, Clive Lloyd and dozens of other players.
I have played golf in so called ‘Celebrity’ charity days for 30 years, and with very many well known and house-hold names, but, nothing was as special for me yesterday. I was trying to think of an equivalent name to Garry’s within golf and the closest I came to was a mixture of Seve and Jack Nicklaus. I was very lucky!!