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Meet the man hoping to play some better golf after he celebrates his 100th birthday

Opinion

Hugh Brown’s been playing golf longer than most of his mates have been alive – but that doesn’t mean he can’t find room for improvement, writes Michael Blucher

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Golf enthusiast Hugh Brown recently booked a lesson with the professional at his club – searching for a bit of extra distance with his driver, apparently.

Not too much unusual about that – find me a golfer who doesn’t like to have shorter shots into the green?

No, in that regard, Hugh’s just like all the other golfing nuts. The difference is he’s just five months shy of his 100th birthday and still in search of that little edge to his game!

You read that correctly. Ninety-nine – the long serving Indooroopilly Golf Club member “raises the bat” in December, if, as he hastens to add, “things go according to plan!”

In a modern world, where so much of the focus is on the new and the next, Hugh Brown is a wonderful reminder of the now – the power and the clarity that comes with simply living in the moment.

There’s nothing disposable in his life. Nothing that needs upgrading.

Hugh’s had same house for 60-odd years, the same wife for 75. Yes – another mind bending number – they stop counting at the diamond wedding anniversary, and for Hugh and his beloved Phyl, that was 15 years ago.

They still live, largely independently in the leafy western suburbs – that’s where they raised their three children, a clan which has since swelled to six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Hugh himself was reared on a sheep station, 100km north west of Winton in Western Queenland – that probably in part explains his longevity. Pretty hardy stock out that way.

When he was high school age, his parents sent him off to board at Brisbane Grammar School – he’s been in the south east corner ever since, in between a fair bit of travel and a lot of hard work, even a short stint serving in World War II.

Hugh took up golf in his mid 30s, in the prime of his career as a civil engineer – he was naturally curious, and as he’d come to learn, “a glutton for punishment”.

While his children were growing up, he oscillated between golf and sailing – he wanted a hobby that he could enjoy with his son and two daughters. But then the forces of gravity drew him back to golf.

“For so many reasons, it’s such a wonderful game,” he enthuses. “It can be both character building and soul destroying in the same round.

“In amongst all the other positives – the exercise, the competition, the companionship, what I enjoy most is the self reporting. In every other sport it seems there’s an attempt to cut corners, to cheat – even kick somebody in the groin if you think you can get away with it. In golf – you are your own referee. And as the saying goes, cheat in golf, cheat in life.”

Hugh and his rookie golf buddies – some of them as young as 70 – still play three times a week.  Mainly nine holes these days, with the occasional longer hit out on a Wednesday.

Hugh holds his handicap pretty tightly – it hovers between 31 and 33, depending on his putting (“the least worst part of my game”) and how many drives he can get to hit the cart paths.

“There’s where I often aim – a few bounces on the bitumen gives me some handy extra distance,” he laughs. “But I’m rarely accurate enough to hit them.”

Most of his playing partners among the aptly named “old and bold” have also lost a little length off the tee but their tongues remain just as sharp ever. “Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of trash talking,” he says. “It’s no place for the faint hearted!”

Despite his long love affair with the game, a few unticked boxes remain in Hugh Brown’s golfing portfolio – for instance, he’s never been to the US Masters. He says he’d like to do that one day! Additionally, in his in 67 years as a member of Indooroopilly, he still hasn’t managed to etch his name onto the honour board.

“Have you ever been close,” I ask sympathetically. “Nup. Nowhere near it, but still plenty of time left,” he grins.

As for the celebration plans surrounding his next birthday, he’s keeping it pretty low key – he’ll probably restrict it to a small family gathering – “perhaps a “hanger-ons!”. He’s certainly not expecting a letter fromt the Queen. “She’s got enough on her plate,” he says.

And therein lies one of the many secrets to Hugh Brown’s long and contented life. Never take yourself, or anything else too seriously. “Heavens above if you look at what we are all served up with from week to week – how could we possibly think we were meant to take it seriously?!”

There’s that, as well simply staying active. Getting involved. Embracing change, rolling with the punches.

With that in mind, the members at Indooroopilly Golf Club can expect to his twin turbo blue BMW in the car park for some time yet. Same spot, same days, same cheery disposition.

“No intention of leaving you lot just yet,” he laughs. “Still got plenty of atrocious golf to play yet. Besides, my physio has warned me – she’s going to sack me as a patient if I ever stop playing. And I can’t afford that!”

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