Still enjoying golf at ripe old age of 90
AGREAT-grandfather who took up golf in 1956 to keep fit and healthy is still gracing the golf courses today, 62 years later, at the age of 90.
Mervyn Rodney Booth, born at Durban’s Addington Hospital on May 12, 1928, competed in a two-day, 36-hole championship tournament that began on his 90th birthday at Durban’s Windsor Park golf course at the weekend.
It was organised by his club, Athlone Golf Club, which is based at Windsor Park.
Booth, known as “Baba” Mervyn, played in the C Division medal tournament with scores of other golfers, many years younger than him.
Unlike a number of his fellow golfers who played by riding around the course in carts, “Baba” Mervyn pulled his own cart and walked the 36 holes over the two days.
He also played from the back competition tees instead of the senior “white” tees.
At the end of the first day, club officials and members showed their appreciation by marking his 90th birthday.
“We celebrate Mervyn as a legend because we believe he is the oldest golfer in the world to have participated in a two-day tournament,” said Lou Zietsman, deputy chairperson of the Athlone Golf Club.
“He is an example to all of us that you don’t have to give up on golf or any other sport when you reach such a ripe old age in your life.
“We want to wish Mervyn many more years of life on the golf course.”
In addition to playing in the club’s tournaments on a Saturday, “Baba” Mervyn is a regular at Windsor Park every Tuesday and Thursday. On Tuesdays, he plays in the Brian Angel tournament and on a Thursdays he plays in the Wimpey competition.
Recently “Baba” Mervyn, playing off a 28 handicap, beat his fellow golfers by winning the Tuesday tournament with a score of 44 points.
He told me he took up golf after he was inspired by golfers of the calibre of Papwa Sewgolum, Gary Player and Vincent Tshabalala.
“In my younger days I was a damn good golfer and won many tournaments in Durban and at other golf courses on the South and North coast.”
Life for “Baba” Mervyn, who speaks fluent Xhosa and Zulu, has not been an easy ride. At the age of seven, his parents moved from Sydney Road in Durban to Swartberg, near Kokstad, to work on a farm called Balmoral.
His uncle, Harry Conolly, leased the farm and he recalled that some “political” people would seek shelter on the farm.
“I was a young man and I did not know what was going on. But I was told by my parents that my uncle provided shelter for some very important people who were fighting for freedom.
“It was only later I found out that some of the people he provided shelter to at the farm were Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu. My uncle also provided them with transport to move them from one hideout to another.”
Booth stayed in Prince Edward Street and in 1952, at the age of 24, he married Constance McNeal, with whom he had five children – three boys and two girls.
When his wife died in the mid1960s, Booth married Kathija Sayed who was from Grey Street, in Durban.
Despite the prejudices of that time, Mervyn and his Indian wife continued with their married life and produced two children – a daughter and a son.
Mervyn is now a great-grandfather and has outlived two of his sons. “Despite the hurdles of my early life and my tough working life as a carpenter, I managed to spare some time for golf.
“I believe being involved in golf has given me long life. I will continue to play until my last. I want to be an inspiration to others who reach a ripe old age,” he said.
Mervyn Booth on the 18th hole after participating in the first day of the two-day Athlone Golf Club’s championship tournament at the Windsor Park Golf Course, in Durban, last Saturday. It was his 90th birthday.