Real good sports

Last updated 11:01 15/01/2009
AMELIA JACOBSEN/East and Bays Courier
SPORTS NUTS: Husband and wife team Jock and Jan Bilger will compete in the New Zealand Masters Games in golf.

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Dynamo duo Jock and Jan Bilger will tee off in Wanganui next month for the 20th annual New Zealand Masters Games.

The St Heliers couple has made the trip down south every second year for the past decade to compete against other mature athletes in golf.

Mr Bilger, a former Olympic sailor, will also defend his title in the Laser class yachting.

"We really enjoy going down there every other year, not just for the competitive bit but for the social side too," the 72-year-old says.

They use it as a good excuse to catch up with friends who live in the city.

While they both compete in golf, it’s Mrs Bilger, 69, who cleans up the medals, Mr Bilger says.

"She’s much better than me. She’s a good golfer," he says.

Mrs Bilger has won gold medals in the last two Wanganui games and a silver before that.

While she tries to talk it down, her proud husband won’t have a bar of it.

"Two games ago she did really well.

"She got gold for gross across all ages which is off the stick, like Tiger Woods," Mr Bilger says.

"She’s done fantastically well."

The self-professed "sports nut" says sailing comes more naturally to him.

He competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics, the 1976 Montreal Games and was on track for Moscow in 1980 but New Zealand was one of 65 countries to boycott the games after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

When he was later asked to coach the yachting team, Mrs Bilger talked him into it – and he’s pleased she did. He coached the New Zealand team at the Seoul Games in 1988 and again in Barcelona in 1992.

He has three yachting golds and a silver under his belt from the last four masters games.

He also sails at the Panmure Lagoon Yachting Club "just to keep my hand in it".

The retired dentist took up golf 11 years ago, finally giving in to his wife’s persistent encouragement.

"Jan was on at me for years. She said you’ve got to play golf.

"When I was semi-retired I went out and bought some clubs.

"And they stayed in the cellophane for nine months."

"He’s hooked on it now," Mrs Bilger says.

His first time at the masters games was "a bit of a joke", he says.

"When I retired from dentistry all my patients kept asking me what I was going to do.

"My answer was: ‘I’m going to the masters games and I’ve entered six events across five sports’."

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That year he competed in table tennis, walking, swimming, sailing and golf.

"That was just a bit of a laugh. I didn’t know what I was doing."

The masters games is one of the few times the couple is together on the golf course.

Mrs Bilger is a member and past champion of the Remuera Golf Club while Mr Bilger plays with friends at Chamberlain Park.

They will be teaming up for the foursomes event in Wanganui, in which they alternate hitting the ball.

"He has to play by my rules then," Mrs Bilger says.

Thousands to compete in NZ Masters Games

The New Zealand Masters Games for mature athletes alternates each year between two cities – Dunedin and Wanganui.

The games started in 1989 when 1500 entrants competed across 29 sports.

This year’s games will be the biggest so far.

More than 8000 entrants will participate in 67 sports.

Anyone can enter the masters games – the minimum age requirement for each sport is the only qualification entrants need to have.

New sports added this year include salsa and ceroc dancing, Texas hold’em poker and wakeboarding.

The event runs from January 30 to February 8.

- East And Bays Courier

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