This humble 20-handicapper from tiny Tokarahi Golf Club will be better known to you as New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup-winning legend Richie McCaw.
He always attacked his rugby with a fearless streak for 148 Tests as an All Blacks flanker. He had peerless powers which he could always rely on. McCaw (centre) readily admits he has no such comfort with a golf club in his hands which made winning this week’s celebrity 90-second Driving Contest all the more fun.
Bragging rights over former All Blacks teammate Dan Carter (right) and England’s 2003 World Cup-winner Mike Tindall (left) made it all the sweeter. The trio are all ISPS HANDA ambassadors. The fun event at the ISPS HANDA Championship Japan brought together the three World Cup-winners for a driving shootout with a difference.
No single blast with the driver would win the honours. Each player had 90 seconds to load and reload on the tee. The sum of drives finding the fairway and the shortest cut of rough would count towards a winning total yardage. Tindall’s warm-up drives all had plenty of heat but sailed right towards the treeline.
The Englishman racked up 743 yards of driving off the 1st tee at PGM Ishioka Golf Club. Carter’s more controlled swing had the rhythm of his renowned goalkicking which produced more than 1500 Test points for the All Blacks. He came in with 709 yards.
The banter was constant. Carter chipped in: “The weight of your country is on your shoulders.” McCaw squeezed in close to 10 drives in his 90 seconds and…749 yards. The winner.
Tindall playfully scoffed. McCaw had the counter: “There were a few wobbly ones getting off the tee but they don’t say how on the scoreboard. I’ll take a win over those two. My golf is very hit and miss.”
For McCaw, the more important message of the week is amplifying how much good sport can achieve through the work of Dr Haruhisa Handa.
“Sport is an amazing thing. You go to different countries that have different values and backgrounds. In the game I played, rugby, it has a very unique set of values that you understand, buy into and support no matter what country you come from,” McCaw said.
“It brings people from all walks of life together into a common goal and brings out the best in people.” In all, McCaw played against 17 nations during his long career.
In his own country, the Rugby World Cup for women in 2022 filled Auckland’s Eden Park with a record-breaking crowd of 42,579 fans. “There’s no reason why sport can’t be for anyone. In years gone by, where sports might have been for male or female, they are now for anyone,” McCaw said. “That’s what we saw with the Rugby World Cup in NZ. Full stadiums…it was amazing.
“On the golf side of things, Dr Handa and ISPS HANDA have driven a lot of what is now possible for golfers with a disability to be able to play sport and compete at the highest level.”
McCaw watched a world first on TV last December when the All Abilities Championship was staged with the men’s and women’s national titles at the ISPS HANDA Australian Open in Melbourne. “There’s no reason why that TV exposure can’t happen more often. To see some of the guys with disabilities, it’s amazing how they can play the game of golf,” McCaw added.
A final tip on the Rugby World Cup showpiece set for France in 2023? “There are a whole lot of teams which could be there at the end. The All Blacks play the French in the first game and that could easily be the final because the home nation will be tough to beat,” McCaw said.