Still en­joy­ing golf at ripe old age of 90

The Mercury - - NEWS - Subry Goven­der

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.

(sub­ry­goven­der@gmail.com)

PICTURE: SUBRY GOVEN­DER

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.

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