For services to his country: Sir Bob Charles

When Bob Charles won the British Open golf title at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 1963, it was the American opponent he beat in a 36-hole playoff who provided the grand gestures.

And 30 years later, when he returned to the English course to win the British Senior Open, the tall, lean, now-bespectacled Charles contented himself with an understated tip of the visor and the merest suggestion of a wave to the crowd.

"I am not an articulate person and don't talk fluently - I've got to think about what I'm saying - and I said to my dad [on an occasion in 1954], 'If this is what winning a golf tournament's all about, I don't want any part of it.'

"Even today I have trouble putting the words together, but I never let it get the better of me. It was just something that you've got to do and you make the most of it and you accept it."

As Sir Bob spoke on today's appointment to membership of the Order of New Zealand, he displayed his pride in his country with a typically measured but heartfelt plea for young people to get the chance to play sport.

"I'm proud, humble and thankful. Proud to be recognised by New Zealand for my achievements and contributions to New Zealand golf, humble to be joining such an illustrious group of New Zealanders and thankful for the opportunity ... golf has given me."

Though he said golf was "just a game", Sir Bob is a firm believer in the wider benefits of participation in sport and he said he hoped his appointment would inspire young New Zealanders, and their parents, to become involved.

"When I grew up, there was maybe one murder a year. Now somebody gets murdered every other day virtually, and it saddens me and sickens me.

"The youth of the world would be far less troubled if they got involved in some sport or other; have an interest, get them off the streets, get them away from television, get them away from video games, get them out in the fresh air. They'd be a lot healthier and more productive and more law-abiding if they did that.

"I think that maybe the adults are a bit to blame, and I don't think there's enough sport in the curriculum today. Sport should be right up there with reading, writing and arithmetic."

Sir Bob, 74, lives with Lady Verity, his wife of 48 years, and has two children, Beverley and David.

Since he came over the hill from his bank clerk's job in the Wairarapa to win the New Zealand Open at Heretaunga as an amateur in 1954, Sir Bob has won more than 60 professional tournaments around the world, including four New Zealand Opens and that British Open win, the first major victory by a left-hander.

When he turned 50, he became one of the most successful senior golfers, winning two British Senior Opens, 23 US Champions Tour titles and 10 other over-50 tournaments.

The putting stroke that had served him so well rarely faltered and his uncomplicated swing made good use of the new equipment available.

For much of his career he has donated 1 per cent of his income to New Zealand golf through the Bob Charles Scholarships, awarded annually to promising golfers.

In 2004, there was talk of his competitive retirement - 50 years after his first victory. But he wasn't finished.

In 2007, the New Zealand Open came to the spectacular Hills course near Queenstown and at the age of 71 Sir Bob became the oldest golfer to make the cut on a regular European Tour event, finishing 23rd. The following year he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, the first New Zealander and the first left-hander to gain that honour.

A month ago, he was the first person inducted into New Zealand's golfing Hall of Fame, and he celebrated the event by shooting 69, five under his age, at Heretaunga in New Zealand Golf's centenary tournament.

At least three times a week he hits a bucket of balls at Clearwater in Christchurch and he promises that next month he will be involved in the re-launch of the New Zealand Open, though he doubts he'll be competing this time.


Sir Bob Charles becomes the 18th ordinary member of the Order of New Zealand in today's New Year Honours.

The order comprises the Queen as Sovereign, ordinary, additional and honorary members.

The ordinary membership is limited to 20 living people.

The order has six additional members, appointed in commemoration of important royal, state or national occasions.

Former Commonwealth Secretary-General Sir Shridath "Sonny" Ramphal is an honorary member.

Members, who may use the letters ONZ after their name, usually meet each year at Government House, Wellington.

The ordinary members are:

Lady June Blundell.

Dame Miriam Dell.

Margaret Mahy.

Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Sir Miles Warren.

Jim Bolger.

Ken Douglas.

Dr Cliff Whiting.

Mike Moore.

Cardinal Tom Williams.

Jonathan Hunt.

Professor Sir Lloyd Geering.

Justice Sir Kenneth Keith.

Sir Don McKinnon.

Sir Murray Halberg.

Helen Clark.

Sir Bob Charles.

Additional members:

Michael Duffy.

Dame Cath Tizard.

Sir Brian Lochore.

Sir Paul Reeves.

Professor Karl Stead.

Sir Owen Woodhouse.

Honorary member:

Sir Shridath Ramphal.