Former Kiwi golf pro, Arrowtowner Greg Turner, owes much to recently-deceased Aussie golfing legend Peter Thomson.
Twenty years ago, as non-playing captain of the International team, Thomson picked Turner and fellow Kiwi pro Frank Nobilo as his wildcard selections to play the United States for the Presidents Cup at Australia’s Royal Melbourne course.
“It was a brave decision indeed to select two Kiwis over, especially, the seemingly more qualified Australian, Robert Allenby,” Turner says.
On the first morning, he and Nobilo beat Americans Mark O’Meara and David Duval – then ranked second and third in the world.
Kiwi/Aussie satirist, the late John Clarke, wrote: “[Thomson] was later asked by the media why he’d sent the New Zealanders out first.
“‘NZ is two hours ahead’, Peter explained. ‘They’re awake a bit earlier’.”*
The International team subsequently beat the US – still, to this day, their only Presidents Cup win.
Turner says Thomson – a five-time British Open winner – was what many would call ‘old school’.
“In my experience he, unlike a number of professional golfers, viewed the game through a lens beyond his own self-interest.”
In his heyday, some thought his lack of interest in playing the US tour betrayed a weakness.
Turner, however, says his later “fantastic success” on the US senior tour put paid to that notion.
“More likely was that he saw the evolution of the game as it was being led in America – the move to the larger ball, the increasing use of long, thick rough as a hazard, etc – as steps in the wrong direction towards a more one-dimensional, aerial game putting increasing emphasis on brute strength.”
Turner’s currently playing several European Senior Tour events, and last month notched up top-17 results in Denmark and Italy.
Now a course designer, he says one reason he plays the 50-and-over tour is to keep abreast of golf course developments.
He’s particularly interested in the potential for practice training facilities to add to NZ golf’s international appeal.
“What better place for northern hemisphere elites and budding elites to spend an extended period during their winter along with our own golfers?”
* From Tinkering: The Complete Book of John Clarke