• The Eagle Society of Hawke's Bay has inducted Robin Dailey, of Dannevirke, as one of its only three honorary members.
• Dailey had turned down an invite to be a society member almost 50 years ago because he had too much on his plate while running his business and serving his community in other voluntary sports positions.
• The 86-year-old considers himself lucky to have had the support of countless selfless people but there's no doubting his golfing abilities
Rugby and cricket were Robin Dailey's passion when he was a pupil at Dannevirke High School in the middle of last century.
The first five-eighth and opening batsman's biggest thrill was making the Central Ross Shield team in 1945.
"I was just a very average player but I loved it," says the 86-year-old after accepting the Eagles Society of Hawke's Bay invite to become only its third honorary member after former All Blacks great Sir Brian Lochore and American tycoon Julian Robertson who also owns the Cape Kidnappers Resort and Golf Course near Clifton.
However, ingrown toenails had put paid to his rugby and cricket aspirations but little did he know the journey golf was going to take him on.
"I've got these big toes and I couldn't get rid of them," says the retired menswear shop owner who also thrived as a badminton and tennis player.
"I couldn't even walk properly, let alone run so I was told I wasn't allowed to play rugby until I was going to have the doctors pull them out so I went to play golf and I've never been back."
Not only did he excel as an elite amateur player after becoming a member at Dannevirke Golf Club in 1949 (at 15 just a year after it mutated from Tapuata GC) but Dailey went on to serve as a New Zealand Golf board member among other roles as national selector and team manager.
Embellishment isn't a game he likes to play even though he regularly tees up on a refreshing sense of humour.
Akin to a golfer adamant on returning a correct card at the end of the round, he points out he had beaten the late Stuart "The Emperor" Jones, of Hastings Golf Club, 4-1/2 rounds in a row during Greenwood Cup campaigns, a crown Dannevirke club hasn't won since 1953.
"He was an incredible golfer and older than me but a wonderful bloke to play with and he certainly [had a great sense of humour]," he says of Jones who was regarded as the greatest amateur New Zealand ever produced.
Jones had vowed to get him back the following year but a grinning Dailey took immense pleasure in pointing out that Dannevirke had a bye against Hastings club so that face-off had never transpired.
"He was always the favourite to win and the best [amateur] golfer in New Zealand by miles," he says. "Stuart won the amateur title seven times and no one has ever done that."
Dailey lost to Ted McDougal, of Christchurch, in the New Zealand Amateur Champion final in 1970 and then lost to Jones in a semifinal the following year.
The then +2 handicapper, who was a member of the Bay senior men's amateur team from 1951-75, says he thoroughly enjoys the camaraderie and all the frills golf offers well after he's stopped playing a game that can be quite frustrating at times.
A lefthander, Daily played as a righthander because he's ambidextrous.
"I use an axe righthanded and hit a hammer lefthanded so I'm bloody mentally unbalanced," he says with a grin.
Having started his own business, Burne and Dailey, in partnership with the late Wally Burne, in 1954 he married Valma three years later. The couple raised five daughters — Gillian, Kim, Donna, Christine and Karen — so that didn't leave him much time for any sport, never mind golf.
"Family came first all the time," he says, acknowledging how The Emperor had counted his stars in having siblings run the Jones family business so he could play golf. "But I did get away from the business a little bit because I had a partner who helped so I got away more than I probably should have so I was lucky too."
He retired from the business in 1975 although Valma ran it until she called it a career in 1996.
Dailey tells a joke about stashing his clubs away in the garage "because I lost my balls" at the turn of the century.
"I knocked off because the problem was that I couldn't see the ball," he says with a laugh.
Ironically Dannevirke club stalwarts Pat Peacock and Gladston Wilson had approached him to become an Eagle Society member almost 50 years ago when the clubhouse had just had its new extension built but Dailey had turned it down.
"I was too busy with the business and I was the club captain of the badminton club and the treasurer of the tennis club so I didn't have much time and I had explained that to them," he explains.
He finds the honorary title bestowed on him humbling because it is an acknowledgement from the golfing public of having added value to the code.
Eagle Society stalwart Jamie MacLeod, of Waipukurau, revealed at the induction ceremony Dailey had drawn a record number of votes for his historic direct inclusion during a meeting held at a cafe in Dannevirke, after fellow society member Warren Weber had nominated him.
"When I asked Robin if he would accept the honorary position he didn't hesitate," MacLeod said.
Hastings PGA professional Brian Doyle, who also is an Eagle member, reflected on how Dailey had inspired him when he started his club pro career at Dannevirke club in 1969.
"He is the biggest influence on my career and I still look at him now as a mentor," Doyle said. "I'm delighted to say he's also an Eagle now and my friend."
Dailey, who was Dannevirke club treasurer/secretary during Doyle's stint there, recalls his professionalism as well as his demeanour.
"He's a real good guy so I always enjoyed his company when he was here for 10 years," says the life member of NZ Golf Association, HB Golf and Dannevirke club.
Dailey, who also was a Bay delegate to NZGA for 23 years (1977-2000), again thanks the stars for having had the opportunity to be part of a selection panel of the men's national teams for 13 years, including the one of Michael Campbell, Stephen Scahill, Phil Tataurangi and Grant Moorhead who lifted the Eisenhower Trophy in Vancouver, Canada, in 1992 under the tutelage of Alex Mercer, of Australia, who Doyle was assistant to in 1986.
Dailey also was a selector when the Kiwis won the Asia-Pacific a few years later.
His former Bay amateur teammate, John Dorreen, of Hastings club, says: "What Robin did for Hawke's Bay and New Zealand Golf just makes him an icon."
The rousing applause at the clubrooms had endorsed that.
"It's been great so now I'm just enjoying it so I'm very lucky to have always had a lot of support from so many people over the years," says Dailey, who has 12 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren and celebrated his diamond wedding celebration with Valma in 2017.
The late Wilson was the first Bay representative of the Eagle society in 1964 after a meeting at Wairakei, north of 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 41st one. To date, it has raised close to $400,000 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.
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.
Bay members David Howie and Jeremy Ballantyne, are incumbent Eagles Society national president and national secretary/treasurer, respectively.
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, and promotes junior golf in the province.