Botham opts for hook shots of a golfing kind
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, having played in every Dunhill Links Championship, the format the New Zealand event is based on.
There has been more fishing than golf for Botham while the England cricket team have been playing in the North Island, but now the tourists have arrived in Queenstown for a four-day practice game against New Zealand A ahead of next week's first test in Dunedin, he is 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 rated the Kinloch course one of his favourites, but he is well-acquainted 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."
Botham was planning lunch at popular Arrowtown winery Amisfield today and was looking forward to what he rates as one of the great pinots.
As for the test series, Botham isn't expecting much from the New Zealand team against his compatriots. "I'm booked fishing days four and five," he quipped.
Along with one of the greatest all-rounders cricket has seen, there is golfing royalty on show at The Hills in the form of Hale Irwin, one of the best players on the planet through the 1970s and 80s. Now 67, the World Golf Hall of Fame member and three-time US Open winner tees off from the 10th at 7.50am today, along with Craig Parry and Peter Fowler.
Irwin was encouraged to visit New Zealand by Sir Bob Charles, initially with the hope he would be able to play alongside his son, Steve. However, Steve Irwin was unable to travel due to business commitments.
Irwin has been promoted as the drawcard player for this event and said he believed he had plenty to offer. "I do think that the elder statesmen, whoever they may be, add a great deal of credibility and experience to any event because they've been there.
"We get caught up in all the exuberance of a young player emerging, and that's fine, but I think it's very good to sit back and talk to a Bob Charles, who has a wealth of international experience."