If the late Gladstone Wilson was around today he would have been immensely proud of what the Eagles Society of Hawke's Bay Inc has achieved, according to his son, Stuart Wilson.

"He was very proud of belonging to the Eagle society and I've still got his blazers with me," said Wilson after the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation marked the 50th anniversary of its association with the The Eagle Society of New Zealand (Inc) Bay branch with a morning tea and round of golf at the Waipukurau Golf Club last Sunday.

Gladstone Wilson, who died about two decades ago, was the first Bay representative of the society in 1964 after a meeting at Wairakei, Taupo, had discussed the concept of a national society the year before.

In 1980, the Bay branch began staging an annual tournament to support its national body which in turn had been supporting Halberg foundation since 1969.

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The tourney is played at the Napier Golf Club and next year the Bay society will host its 40th one. To date, it has raised $352,260 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.

Gladstone Wilson, who has won the Waipukurau club championship about eight times — the most anyone has — was, no doubt, passionate about golf.

"He was pretty placid, even with Hawke's Bay stuff," says Stuart of his father who also had represented the province as a longtime senior men's amateur representative.

"He used to smoke his pipe," says the 70-year-old son who had emulated his father's feat in becoming a scratch handicapper. "As everyone used to say, 'As long as his pipe was lit and he was puffing out smoke he was pretty relaxed'."

Gladstone Wilson went on to become the inaugural president of the Bay branch, something Stuart wasn't aware of until branch secretary Jamie MacLeod had invited him two years ago to present a few awards at the annual tourney.

Stuart, a former Bay amateur himself, still has photos of his father with several society members from the inaugural days.

The semi-retired cropping and livestock farmer still farms a stone's throw away from the Waipukurau club although he recalls as a youngster his father owned and farmed the property directly opposite the club now.

"I could walk across the road and play golf," say Stuart, mindful his father would probably have too.

"If you had had a bad shot you could have probably had ended up in one of our paddocks."

Brandon Woolley (left) presents Eagle Hawke's Bay society president Allen Connor with a montage of photos to mark Halberg Foundation's 50-year ties with the society. Photo/Photosport
Brandon Woolley (left) presents Eagle Hawke's Bay society president Allen Connor with a montage of photos to mark Halberg Foundation's 50-year ties with the society. Photo/Photosport

The Halberg foundation has a team of advisers based regionally throughout the country who connect physically disabled people with sport and recreational opportunities.

Te Awanga-born Brandon Woolley is the Wellington/Hawke's Bay adviser and thanked the Bay society was at the function last Sunday.

The foundation provides grants to physically disabled young people to help cover the costs of adaptive sports equipment, lessons and camps. The NZ Eagle society raises funds for the grants and it is anticipated $5 million will have been raised by the end of this year.

The Eagle's 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.

Eagle society national president David Howie and national secretary/treasurer Jeremy Ballantyne, both of the Bay, also were among the invited grant recipients and guests.

The national body comprises 15 regions of which the Bay is one with 104 members, comprising active, non-active and honorary affiliates.

It is a non-profit society which also helps Bay clubs with visits, helps with national amateur championships involving men, women and juniors, fosters and promotes junior golf in the province and boosts the Halberg Trust's fund drives to support Bay recipients.

Halberg Foundation adviser Brandon Woolley (left) with grant recipients Logan Egan and mother Kim Egan, and Guy Harrison, at Waipukurau Golf Club last Sunday. Photo/Photosport
Halberg Foundation adviser Brandon Woolley (left) with grant recipients Logan Egan and mother Kim Egan, and Guy Harrison, at Waipukurau Golf Club last Sunday. Photo/Photosport