Prime Minister proves he's master of other games besides politics

By Dave Cannan

John Key hunts for his ball in "tiger country" on the new Coronet Nine course near Queenstown. Photo / Otago Daily Times
John Key hunts for his ball in "tiger country" on the new Coronet Nine course near Queenstown. Photo / Otago Daily Times

In the unlikely event John Key asks you to join him for a round of golf, take my advice: don't play him for money.

And don't be fooled if the Prime Minister tries to tell you he's "just a 25 handicapper" or that he's "erratic" and that his short game is a "disaster".

The form he showed yesterday on the Millbrook resort's lush fairways and greens proved he would be a very handy partner to have in any weekend club golf haggle.

He was at Millbrook, near Queenstown, to open its new Coronet Nine course but once he had cut the ribbon (appropriately blue), he slipped off his jacket and demonstrated he was no slouch with a driver.

And it was no ordinary gallery; it included New Zealander Sir Bob Charles and Australian Peter Thomson, and British television commentator Peter Allis.

Mr Key's playing partners over four holes were former professional Greg Turner, of Queenstown, who helped design the new layout, Japanese millionaire Eichi Ishii, who owns the resort, and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.

And while Turner was given the honour of the first drive, all eyes were on the Prime Minister as he stood poised over the ball.

"I'm looking forward to a hole-in-one; it should be relatively easy," he joked before launching his ball skywards.

It sailed over a bunker and settled into hip-high rough.

Turner was quick to encourage Mr Key: "I guess it's only appropriate it was a bit to the right."

The ball lay in the sort of territory most golfers would accurately describe as "tiger country" although, given the world No 1's woes, one hesitates to use such terminology these days.

"What will I need over there?" Mr Key asked his advisers, reaching for a club.

Someone suggested a wedge but I thought a search party would be more useful.

Then Turner's 12-year-old daughter Charlotte proved me wrong by finding the ball - "I almost stood on it," she said.

But just as the 100-strong crowd settled back to enjoy the prospect of the nation's leader hacking his way out of the undergrowth, grass flying in all directions, Turner, reading our minds, intervened.

"Sorry, Prime Minister, but that's just been declared a wildlife refuge; you're not allowed to play out of there," he said, dropping the ball back on to the fairway.

Back at the clubhouse Turner declared that the prime ministerial golf game looked pretty good. "But I hesitate to suggest he needs to play a bit more. I'd sooner he ran the country, to be honest."

Mr Key described his form as a work in progress.

"I thoroughly enjoyed it and the voters can feel confident they are getting value for money from me as a politician and not a golfer."

He promised to play more golf in his life after politics when he was likely to consult more professionals for advice.

"By that time I'll be used to taking instructions."


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