Nonagenarian hopes for gold at games

The 2020 Masters Games’ oldest competitor, Watson Barkman (90), takes a break at the Twelve Oaks golf course yesterday. Photo: Christine O'Connor
The 2020 Masters Games’ oldest competitor, Watson Barkman (90), takes a break at the Twelve Oaks golf course yesterday. Photo: Christine O'Connor
Watson Barkman’s Masters Games medal collection goes back further than most.

The 90-year-old former school teacher claimed his first medal at the Games in 1994.

He has since missed winning one just once — a record that seems set to continue.

There is a good chance he will be the only golfer in the 90-95 category when the 2020 Games begin in Dunedin on February 1.

That may well go beyond golf too.

At present, he is the oldest registered competitor for this year’s event.

Golf was his passion and he continued to play between three to five times a week.

The lure of a prize made the Masters Games something a little bit different.

‘‘Winning medals, that’s what’s special about it,’’ he said with a laugh.

‘‘Most of the golds came in the later end.

‘‘Last year, I was the only one in the 85-90 group, this year, I’m in the 90-95 group.

‘‘I’ve played once with a chap who was 93, so I don’t know whether I’m going to be the only one in that category or not.’’

Mr Barkman began playing in 1960 when he worked for a contractor putting together hay bales near Milton.

His boss was a golf fanatic and often he would decide it was too wet to work, so they would go and play golf.

That was the start of it.

When he had children they became his priority, and he also enjoyed watching his grandchildren— one of whom is former top cyclist and netballer Alison Shanks — in their sports.

However, his wife suggested he find an outlet to spend more time with men, as their family consisted of women.

That outlet, naturally, became golf.

He has held numerous positions in various golfing organisations.

Alongside that he continues to play regularly.

He had remained in good health, which he felt was key to keeping on going.

He had no plans to stop either.

Provided his health remained good, he would be teeing off at the games again in 2022.

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