Try telling Frank Borren that golf is a young man's game.
At 57, the king of the greens at Paraparaumu Beach now reigns over Wellington, having beaten players one-third his age to be crowned matchplay champion.
And it was no stroll in the park. Usually a one-round-per-week player at his beloved Paraparaumu, Borren toiled for 132 holes over consecutive weekends before clinching the final, 4 and 3 against Royal Wellington's Fraser MacLachlan at Shandon.
“I struggled a little bit on the Monday. You get a bit stiff and sore at my age," Borren said.
It's no fluke, being crowned the region's champion golfer, and you could certainly argue Borren was due.
He'd toiled nearly half his life to join the likes of Bob Charles and eight-time winner Rodney Barltrop, his Freyberg Masters team-mate, on the 100-year-old trophy.
“I've probably tried 25 times but never made the semifinals. You have to make the top-16 [at the Wellington strokeplay] to qualify and I've done that most times, but I've been knocked out."
When the 72-hole Wellington strokeplay was scheduled for Paraparaumu Beach, Borren felt his luck was in. He kept his cool in "disgusting, absolutely terrible" weather, finished second-equal and qualified as top seed.
Then at Shandon last weekend he beat local James Donnelly 1-up in the quarterfinals before producing the big upset, 4 and 3 over current Wellington No 1 Marc Jennings in the semis.
“I guess both those guys would have expected to beat me but it never fazed me too much," Borren said.
“The young kids don't worry too much about playing an older guy. They hit it a lot longer so in matchplay you're a little way behind so you have to make up for it by hitting it straight and not getting into trouble."
Borren is 250-260m off the tee and in the final was giving MacLachlan a 20m headstart.
His secret? “I don't change too much in my swing at my age. I pretty well know what I'm doing and around Wellington you get used to the wind and rain so I've never minded that."
He noted Barltrop won the last of his titles as a 50-year-old, making Borren the oldest winner in recent memory. Borren's previous best result was runner-up in the North Island amateur at Masterton in the mid-1990s.
He used to play No 1 for the Hutt club in the 1980s and was No 2 for Wellington. His latest exploits couldn't be ignored by the Wellington selectors.
Borren was shoulder-tapped for the rep programme, but he declined. "It isn't my ambition to do that at my age any more. There's a lot of young kids who are particularly keen and play well. This is a bit atypical that I've managed to hold it together and win under a bit of pressure."
Ironic, then, that Borren struggles to even be the best player in his family, and bowed out of the Paraparaumu club championships in this year's quarterfinals.
His son, Tim, won back-to-back club titles this year, and was fifth qualifier for the Wellington matchplay before losing in the quarterfinals. “Whenever we play socially he beats me," Borren Sr said.
After his recent golden run, Borren will just be happy to be rewarded with a spot in New Zealand's six-man team for the Asia-Pacific senior amateur (over-55) at Hong Kong's Discovery Bay club from November 28-30.
He's hopeful, and after the past fortnight he would be difficult to leave out.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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