The golf ball doesn’t know how old you are and Limerick man Tommy Greene proved it yet again when he recently notched his ninth hole-in-one at the grand old age of 92.
native of Kilteely in Co Limerick, where he played hurling as a lad, Tommy emigrated to London shortly after World War II and remains there to this day.
He only took up golf at the age of 53, having excelled during his youth as a middle and long-distance runner with Victoria Park Harriers, rubbing shoulders with many of the greats of the day and even getting a new lease of life in his running career thanks to the medical expertise of Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a sub-four-minute mile.
He served in the British Army when he first arrived in the UK and was posted to Hong Kong.
But when he retired after more than 40 years working for Tate & Lyle in the sugar refining business, he took up golf with his late wife Marie (née McMahon), a native of Dysart O’Dea near Corofin, Co Clare.
They enjoyed almost 50 years of marriage, not to mention a friendly rivalry on the golf course at Ilford Golf Club, where Marie, a nurse, got down to an 11 handicap and briefly enjoyed bragging rights at home in the golfing stakes.
She passed away 10 years ago, but Tommy can still hear her whispering to him as he plays golf now at Bentley Golf Club in Essex, where he recently aced the newly redesigned 12th hole with an eight iron.
“I’ve had nine holes in one now,” Tommy proudly reported from a holiday in Spain. “The 12th hole had just been redesigned, and it was only a few hours. It was 145 yards into the sun and I hit an eight iron.
“I didn’t know whether it had gone into the water or the rubbish, but my Callaway ball was in the hole.”
An 18 handicapper, Tommy is no stranger to aces, having previously had five holes in one at Ilford, two on trips home to Ireland and another on holiday in Spain.”
While his driving is now limited to the golf course, he still walks the course for his twice or thrice weekly rounds and has no doubt about the secret of his longevity.
“Peace of mind, a wonderful wife and an extraordinary family,” said Tommy who still lives alone but admits he’s fortunate his daughters Jackie, Barbara and Madeline all live nearby.
“I keep active, and in winter, I walk two and a half miles every day, rain or shine.”
Bentley Golf Club’s oldest member, he did more running than walking in his youth, once clocking 55.10 for 10 miles.
Like Tommy, historic miler Dr Bannister was also born in 1929, and he kept the running Limerick man on track when he feared an injury would bring his athletics career to a premature end.
“I knew him well,” Tommy said. “I had a serious injury, and he’s the man who put me right. I could hardly walk, and he told me to start running on grass the following day.
“And I said, ‘But Dr Bannister, I can hardly walk,’ and he just said, ‘Well, you heard what I said. You should be back on the track in 21 days.’ Thanks to him, I was back in 18 days!”
Tommy has many friends at his club, but he still dearly misses his life and golfing partner Marie, who joined him in taking up the game.
“I didn’t have a golf club in my hand until I was 53 years of age. I had two lessons, and that was it; I was bitten by the bug big time,” he said. “I am only a five-day member these days, and I don’t bother with the big competitions anymore, but I still play at least twice a week, maybe even three times. Golf is most important to me. It was my saviour when my dear wife passed away.
“I can still hear her now sometimes and recall how I’d say to her, ‘Why are you taking that club?’, as a good husband would do. And I would get the reply, ‘Mind your own business; I’m hitting this shot, not you.’
“One day, we were playing together and I had a bad fall down a bank. She just said, ‘Go and sit in the clubhouse and have a brandy and wait for me to finish.’ It turned out I’d broken four ribs, so we dined out on that story at the Bentley for a while.
‘We were very competitive, and while I got down to 10 at one stage, she was lower than I was for a while. I miss her dearly, but I still have a wonderful family and all my friends at the golf club. It’s just a wonderful game.”