Convivial, larger than life - Sir Ian Botham doesn't disappoint in the flesh.
Having survived a sandfly attack and an unscheduled swim in Lake Taupo when his shoes let him down, the cricketing knight and golfing fanatic was excited about being back in the south yesterday in the buildup to the NZ PGA Championship.
"If there's anywhere else in the world I would live, it would be here in this town, Queenstown. It's got everything. It's got the seasons . . . winter sports, summer sports and a few wineries. Even that would keep me occupied for a while."
Botham had no hesitation in accepting an invitation to take part in the pro-am event which runs alongside the PGA Championship.
There has been more fishing than golf for Botham while the England cricket team have been playing in the North Island, but now that the tourists have arrived in Queenstown for a four-day practise game against New Zealand A ahead of next week's test in Dunedin, he was planning on avoiding as many commentary duties as possible to focus on golf.
"I'm unavailable. I've gone missing in the bush," he joked.
Formerly on a four handicap, but these days playing off a nine, Botham rates the Kinloch course one of his favourites, but is well-accustomed with some of Central Otago's jewels, including The Hills, Millbrook and the "quirky" Arrowtown course.
While he's a big fan of the area, there are long odds of him taking part in one of the more popular extreme local sports.
"Bungy? No. That's the one sport you must never lie about your weight."
As for the test series, Botham isn't expecting much from the New Zealand team. "I'm booked fishing days four and five."
There is golfing royalty on show at The Hills in Hale Irwin, one of the world's best players in the 1970s and 80s. Now 67, the World Golf Hall of Fame member and three-time US Open winner tees off at 7.50am today with Craig Parry and Peter Fowler.
Irwin was encouraged to visit New Zealand by Sir Bob Charles.
"I do think that the elder statesmen . . . add a great deal of credibility and experience to any event because they've been there, they bring an oversight that often is forgotten," he said.
"We get caught up in all the exuberance of a young player emerging, and that's fine, but I think it's often very good to sit back and talk to a Bob Charles."
- The Southland Times
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