Eagles society marks its 50th anniversary
By ANENDRA SINGH
If the late Gladstone Wilson was around today he would have been immensely proud of what the Eagles Society of Hawke’s Bay Inc has achieved, says his son, Stuart Wilson.
“He was very proud of belonging to the Eagles society and I’ve still got his blazers,” said Stuart after the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation marked the 50th anniversary of its association with the Eagles Golfing Society of New Zealand (Inc) Bay branch with a morning tea and round of golf at the Waipukurau Golf Club last month.
Gladstone Wilson was the first Hawke’s Bay representative of the society in 1964 after a meeting at Wairakei, Taupo, had discussed the concept of a national society the year before.
In 1980, the HB branch began staging an annual tournament to support its national body, which in turn had been supporting the Halberg foundation since 1969.
The tourney is played at the Napier Golf Club and this year the HB society will host its 40th. To date, it has raised $352,260 for the Halberg foundation, which Olympian Sir Murray Halberg established in 1963 with the aim of enhancing the lives of physically disabled New Zealanders by enabling them to participate in sport and recreation.
Gladstone Wilson, who won the Waipukurau club championship about eight times — the most anyone has — was dedicated to golf.
“He used to smoke his pipe,” says 70-year-old Stuart, who emulated his father’s feat in becoming a scratch handicapper.
“Everyone used to say as long as his pipe was lit and he was puffing out smoke he was pretty relaxed,” he says.
Gladstone Wilson went on to become the inaugural president of the HB branch, something Stuart wasn’t aware of until branch secretary Jamie MacLeod had invited him two years ago to present a few awards at the annual tourney.
Stuart, a semi-retired cropping and livestock farmer, still farms a stone’s throw away from the Waipukurau club and he recalls when his father owned and farmed the property directly opposite the club.
“I could walk across the road and play golf,” say Stuart, adding that his father would probably have too.
“If you had had a bad shot you could have probably ended up in one of our paddocks.”
The Halberg foundation has a team of advisers based throughout the country who connect physically disabled people with sport and recreational opportunities.
Brandon Woolley, the Wellington/ Hawke’s Bay adviser, thanked the HB society at the function last month.
The foundation provides grants to physically disabled young people to help cover the costs of adaptive sports equipment, lessons and camps. The NZ Eagles society raises funds for the grants and it is anticipated $5 million will have been raised by the end of this year.
The Eagles’ concept was first considered in 1956 when nine Auckland men felt that they should be putting something back into golf. Twenty men held an informal meeting and the name Eagle was adopted.
Eagles society national president David Howie and national secretary/ treasurer Jeremy Ballantyne, both of HB, also were among the invited grant recipients and guests.
The national body comprises 15 regions with 104 members, comprising active, non-active and honorary affiliates. The non-profit society also helps Bay clubs with visits, national amateur championships involving men, women and juniors, promotes junior golf in the province.
The Eagles Golfing Society of Hawke’s Bay Inc members gathered at Waipukurau Golf Club to mark its 50th anniversary of association with the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation last Sunday.