The 60th Golden Shears in Masterton this week have an age range of three-quarters of a century spanning its oldest and youngest competitors.

Thought to be the oldest will be sole-surviving foundation year open shearing finalist Ian "Snow" Harrison, of Invercargill, aged 86 and one of six in the 76-years-plus Evergreens event.

At the other end of the scale, and from the other end of the country, will be one of the youngest, novice shearer Hamuera Henderson, just turned 13 and from Kaiwaka, in Northland.

They were among a large entry of 445 shearers, woolhandlers and pressers who had by the weekend entered the four-day championships which start just after midday on Wednesday and finish on Saturday night.

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Held in Masterton's War Memorial Stadium each year since the first Golden Shears in 1961, the championships this year comprise 26 events, with the biggest entries in the open shearing, the Saturday night final of which has flagpoled the championships since the inaugural year.

Organisers made a late decision to accept more than the original limit as entries in the glamour event soared past 80 last week, the highest for many years.

Meanwhile, the novice grade, which was added to the programme in 1998, had a record 69 entries, with the young Henderson up against a vast array of newcomers including four professional vocation women who originally learnt to shear just for a Women in Wool Farmstrong fundraiser at the Royal New Zealand Show in Hastings in October.

Harrison had never been to Masterton before the Golden Shears, which were for many years often referred to as "The Shears" but which now are most-commonly affectionately referred-to as "The Goldies".

There were packed houses, with hundreds unable to get in on the last night when crowds were patrolled by local territorial force volunteers, many public peering from through the foyer windows to watch the competition on a small screen in what was possibly the first live televised sport event in New Zealand, that era's version of CCTV .

But from his home in Southland on the eve of his Wednesday flight to Wellington and a train trip through the Remutaka tunnel to Wairarapa, Harrison's memory of the first Golden Shears' six decades was not so much about the event as journey taken to get there.

"A lot of people today wouldn't believe it," he said, relating how he and wife Shirley, who died in 2014, drove to Lyttelton and had their car slung, suspended by ropes from a derrick, aboard the inter-island ferry for the overnight trip to Wellington.

By the end of the week he was the only South Island shearer in the first of the now-famous six-man Golden Shears Open finals shorn over 20 sheep each.

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Te Puke shearer Ivan Bowen was first to finish, in 26min 54.9sec and claiming the title by 1.38pts from brother and event favourite Godfrey Bowen, who was near the end of his shearing career at the time and best-known for developing the Bowen-style which became common throughout the shearing World.

Third was Bing McDonald, of Te Mata, followed by Hawke's Bay shearer Mac Potae, Australian gun Kevin Sarre, and then Harrison, who was last to finish, in 32min 19.2sec.

Shearing gear, sheep and the athletes have changed much over the years, in which the fastest Open-final time was that of 16-times winner and now "Sir" David Fagan in 2003, taking 15min 27.4sec.

Harrison has ventured back to Masterton several times, most notably when he was one of the centres of attraction shearing in the veterans event at the 50th Golden Shears in 2010.

He says if anyone had suggested then he'd be back in 10 years' time, and shearing, he would have told them they had "lost their marbles".

He still shears "one or two" every now and then, including this week with long-time shearing mate and fellow Southland over-76er JJ Crengle.

Late last year they, again, shore a Stewart Island flock on an excursion Crengle has been making annually, usually with Harrison in tow, for 40 years.

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It was Crengle who entered Harrison in another Golden Shears, and Harrison said: "I pretty quickly cut him off my Christmas card list."

Among other over-76ers competing in this week's veterans shearing will be 80-year-old Tauranga shearing stalwart Hugh McCarroll, who attended in the first year to watch out of intrigue, and who won the intermediate final in 1967.

He has spent a lifetime in shearing, helping found national body Shearing Sports New Zealand, from the original base of Golden Shears and then Wool Board leadership. In the 2013 Queen's Birthday honours he was awarded the MNZM for services to shearing and agriculture, and he continues as secretary of the World Sheep Shearing Records Society.

Acclaimed Dannevirke businesswoman Mavis Mullins, who pushed for the introduction of woolhandling competition in 1985, who then won the open woolhandling title twice and who at the time of the 2010 celebration was the Golden Shears International Shearing Championships Society's first female and non-Wairarapa president, has resisted the temptation to compete again.

But she will have a full-on involvement, taking over fronting the global livestreaming formerly headed by husband Koro Mullins, who died suddenly in September.

Joel Henare of Gisborne, on his way to winning the World Woolhandling Championship final in Invercargill in 2017. Photo / Doug Laing
Joel Henare of Gisborne, on his way to winning the World Woolhandling Championship final in Invercargill in 2017. Photo / Doug Laing

The glamour open finals will each have a hot favourite, with Hawke's Bay shearer Rowland Smith gunning for a seventh open shearing title, overtaking the six of 1960s and 1970s star Brian "Snow" Quinn, while Joel Henare, from Gisborne, is unable to resist the urge and continues the comeback from the briefest of retirements to seek an eighth consecutive Golden Shears Open woolhandling title.

The open shearing championships still has a challenge from King Country gun who has been a competitor at more than half the Golden Shears, including third in the 186 senior final, and his first open final for fifth in 1991, from which all five others had been or were to become Golden Shears Open or World champions.

Other individual events include a rare Golden Shears Bladeshearing title, including new world champion Allan Oldfield, of Geraldine, and commemorating a 1961 bladeshearing event won by Ivan Karaitiana, of Woodend, and a Women's Invitation event, recognising the rapid increases in the number of women in shearing.

Among the other events are two transtasman events, the woolhandling test match on Friday night and the shearing match 24 hours later.

The Golden Shears continues with its extensive family links, including at least five of hometown whanau the Gordons, plus so-and-brother in law Paerata Abraham, who on Sunday scraped into the top 12 for the PGG Wrightson National Circuit semifinals and the chance to defend the title he won last year.