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Updated: June 8, 2014 12:41 IST

90 and golfing strong

S. R. Praveen
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George Varghese celebrated his 90th birthday with the 15th edition of the Kaipattoor tournament. Photo:S.Gopakumar
George Varghese celebrated his 90th birthday with the 15th edition of the Kaipattoor tournament. Photo:S.Gopakumar

Golf is still a passion for George Varghese, the oldest member of Kowdiar Golf Club

The nine-hole course at the Golf Club in Kowdiar comes up short in containing George Varghese’s exuberance as he strides across the turf waving his slightly worn-out golf club in the air. After the game, as the 90-year-old man gave a little sprint for the camera, some of his much younger teammates smiled at each other, with a glint of envy in their eyes.

Mr. Varghese, the oldest member of the club here, celebrated his birthday in style on Saturday with the 15th edition of the Kaipattoor tournament, which he started in 2000 as a tribute to the ‘unknown village’ where he was born, Kaipattoor in Pathanamthitta district, in 1924.

All the 50 of them who gathered at the club were wearing the yellow t-shirts designed for the tournament. Mr. Varghese’s was a special one though, with the number 90 stitched at the back. Members, among them retired civil servants and defence personnel, vied with each other to get themselves photographed with the grand old man, whom they affectionately address as ‘uncle.’

“I have been a member of this club since 1986. Four of us have made a team and we play in the afternoons at least four times a week. I have got some great friends from this club,” says Mr. Varghese.

Golf has been a life-long passion for him, even during his stint as the manager of a private firm in Singapore for 40 years.

Since 1952

“I became fascinated with golf way back in 1952, as the famed Island Country Club was near my apartment. There were at least 12 international golf clubs in that small city and I became a life-long fan there,” he says.

When he came back to the country in 1986 after retirement, his only consideration was to stay in a place where he could regularly play golf. And so, he settled in Thiruvananthapuram. The golf course here is peculiar in that there are no carts to ferry you to the spot for the next shot. Mr. Varghese walks all the distance, as fast as the younger ones.

“One of my memories of ‘uncle’ is of the day when we were playing at Ootty recently. The golf course is reached by a steep climb and we had ridden up on our cars. Only he was missing from the crowd. After some time we heard loud cheers from the crowd and saw him walking up after parking the car downhill,” says John Thomas, Captain of the club here.

A member of the Golf Addicts Society of Southern India, Mr. Varghese speaks softly but hits the ball with all the force he could muster.

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