This tale is going to be a Woosie
Welshman brings some class to charity event
IAN WOOSNAM, golf’s mighty midget, returns this weekend to Sun City where 27 years ago he achieved one of the highlights of his long and illustrious career by winning the “Million Dollar”, now known as the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
The 1.64m Welshman, who in spite of his shortness of stature is able to smash the ball to kingdom come, is one of the star golfers playing in the charity-driven Gary Player Invitational on the Lost City course.
But it was on the adjacent Gary Player CC course in 1987 that he shot 274 over the four rounds to win golf’s richest payout at the time – the $1-million winner-take-all prize for what was only an eight-man line-up that year.
“Wee Woosie” hit one of the most memorable shots in the tournament’s history, when at the par-4 17th in the final round, he holed his second shot with an eight-iron for an eagle two to distance himself from closest challenger Nick Faldo.
Unfortunately, for TV viewers, the only people who saw the ball go in the hole were the spectators around the green, as they obscured the TV cameras’ view.
Only after repeated cheers from the crowd did Woosnam realise he had holed out.
Woosnam has won 51 times around the world, including his only Major – the 1991 Masters. He played in eight consecutive Ryder Cups from 1983 to 1997 and in 2006 captained the European Team to victory over the US.
Today, at 56, he can still shoot the lights out and, player-wise, brings a good deal of quality to the 36-hole GPI alongside fellow Major champion Padraig Harrington.
Woosnam learnt the game on the Llanmynech course (15 holes in Wales, three in England) on the border between the two countries. He worked on the family farm after leaving school and credits his stocky but powerful physique to lifting heavy bales of hay. In the 2001 Open Championship, Woosnam finished third despite suffering a two-stroke penalty for starting the final round with 15 clubs in his bag instead of the maximum of 14.
While his caddie, Miles Byrne, was responsible for this error, Woosie surprisingly decided not to fire him stating: “It is the biggest mistake he will make in his life.
“He won’t do it again. He’s a good caddie. I am not going to sack him. He’s a good lad.” Ironically, he did fire him soon afterwards when Byrne arrived late for a tee-time.
As a teenager, Sandy Lyle – who was the same age – was a rival. “One day I’ll beat you,” Woosnam said to Lyle after losing to him in the 1969 Hereford Boys Championship. “You’ll have to grow a bit first, Woosie,” replied Lyle.
In 1987 the pair met in a brilliant World Match Play final and Woosnam gained his revenge.
Remembering their boyhood match, Lyle said: “If Ian ever does grow up, he’ll hot the ball 2000 yards.”
The global GPI is about golf, but it’s always about raising money for charity as businessmen and women and celebrities gather and put their hands in their pockets.
Over the years over R50-million has been raised in the South African edition, and worldwide – the GPI goes to the US, Europe, China and Abu Dhabi – the figure climbs to over R600-million.
This year two charities will benefit. Wings & Wishes is a NPO dedicated to transporting critically ill children, whose families do not have the means to do so, to places where they can receive life-saving treatment.
And the Wildlands Conservation Trust is a centre of excellence whose vision is to restore and conserve South Africa’s ecosystems through the development of innovative socio-economic partnerships.
UP AND AWAY: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his third shot into the 18th green during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.