A lifetime's passion for their sport has propelled two Hawke's Bay stalwarts into a position of entitlement at the higher echelons of a golfing establishment in New Zealand.

David Howie and Jeremy Ballantyne are on the verge of becoming president and secretary of the Eagles Society of New Zealand, respectively.

"It's actually a huge honour and privilege to be president of a national association which is basically made of a group of your peers," says Howie, the 64-year-old general manager of Gifford Devine lawyers in Hastings.

"I've been involved with golf administration for almost 30 years and this is probably the pinnacle of that association with golf."

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He is a former Hawke's Bay Golf councillor and ex-director of New Zealand Golf, having taken office in the early 2000s. The former Golf Hawke's Bay president has been administratively involved with the code since the early 1990s.

"I told my wife [Jane] it's the last one and it'll be the end of the chain and there'll be no more after this one because she's stood by me over all that time," he says with a grin.

Howie and Ballantyne will oversee the national body with the help of a management committee. The society has 15 districts who run their own associations, with the national body acting as an umbrella.

The Bay stalwarts will officially assume the mantle of national president and secretary at the annual convention to be staged in Pukekohe in a fortnight.

The society convenes an annual mid-year meeting in September in Wellington where delegates of each district attend to discuss matters, including the 26 Halberg Sports Foundation days when they raise funds for disabled athletes.

"My aim is to attend each of those [26 days] in my two-year term," says Howie, mindful he may visit some centres twice because of proximity, although a senior and junior vice-presidents will help ease that load.

"So we'll be there, meeting the Eagles in those areas and answer any questions they may have in helping raise funds for the Halberg Foundation, which is roughly around $120,000 a year, I understand," he says before the pair attended the Halberg Awards night in Auckland on Thursday to get a better grasp of what they will be required to emulate from next year.

The society president and secretary traditionally hand over the cheque at the Halberg Awards.

Eagles Society of Hawke's Bay members Don Davidson and Kevin Pike approached Howie about five years ago to follow the society's path.

"They said, 'We need someone to take Hawke's Bay into the long term and we think it's you'," says Howie who recalls feeling "very nervous".

He had discussed the invitation with his wife and the rest is history.

"I said to Jeremy I was going down this path for two years and if he wanted to come along as my secretary and he said, 'I'd love to'."

Ballantyne, a retired principal of Central Hawke's Bay College, began his labour of administrative love as the club captain of Waipukurau Golf Club in 1994.

From there the 73-year-old became a club representative on Golf HB before assuming the mantle of Golf HB president at the turn of the century.

Ballantyne says he and Howie have forged a partnership that is mutually beneficial.

Explains Howie: "We both served together in Hawke's Bay Golf when Jeremy was president and I followed him four years after that."

That combination flourished further with the Bay Eagles Society for two years.
Ballantyne says it helps that his wife, Pam, and Jane also have built a lasting rapport.

"They are good mates, both love playing golf and they are very happy that we're doing what we're doing and to come along with us so that's very important."

The men say their wives will keep a close eye on them to ensure they have a sense of team work at home.

Ballantyne says the Bay members also have got behind the leadership to make the organisation what it is.

With close to 1200 members nationally, the pair will have their work cut out trying to plait myriad thoughts into a plan of action.

"You've got to keep the society itself evolving and moving forward to be part of the community," says Howie.

He feels there's a delicate balance between the rich traditions of the Eagles society and the game of golf while keeping them pertinent to the contemporary way of doing things.

"We've had big debates in the past year or so about wearing uniforms," says Howie.

Formal jackets and ties are now making way for official golf shirts on tournament days, as they did at the Hawke's Bay Golf club on Wednesday.

Says Ballantyne: "That's now been relaxed a little bit and we're trying to attract more younger Eagles by having a more friendly and open place."

Howie says the jackets and ties will always be there but just the time and place to wear them will be more specific, such as for meetings and official functions.

"When they come out to play golf they can wear an Eagles golf shirt or whatever and just relax because you don't have to put your jacket and tie on," he says, as rules have been stipulated at the national level and will trickle down to the districts.

Ballantyne says there's nothing in the constitution that decrees the society can't have female members.

Howie says: "A lot of our districts have women members but we just haven't got around to having them at our one."

Ballantyne says women play pivotal roles in the golfing community so it's only right they should be part of the society which fosters a caring environment.

"Golfers aren't just men. A lot of golf is run by women because a lot of men just scuffle away and women end up doing most of the work so why should women not be invited to join something like this.

"We don't have a women's equivalent like this society and we're for all golfers — juniors with disabilities who are boys and girls — so we need to move ahead."

Waikato, he says, 15 months ago had no female members and now have several.

Howie says it's important to understand the society invites people to join because of their contribution to enhance the code at any level.

So which role is more fulfilling, president or secretary?

"Come back in two years' time and we'll let you know," says Ballantyne amid laughter.

For the record, Howie will be the boss and Ballantyne will do as he's told.