February 27, 2019 / 9:47 AM / in 2 months

Major champion Charles, 82, tees up NZ Open perfectly with an ace

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Bob Charles has proved that even at the age of 82 he can still swing a club better than most after New Zealand’s first golf major winner made a hole-in-one at a par-three tournament on Wednesday.

Charles, who won the British Open at Royal Lytham in 1963, made the ace on the ninth and final hole of the New Zealand Open warm-up event at the Farm Course near Queenstown, South Island.

The left-hander won the New Zealand Open four times, the first time as an amateur in 1954.

Also playing on Wednesday was Michael Campbell, the only other New Zealander to win a major. Campbell congratulated Charles on the ace and told him he had “still got it”.

“A little bit of talent but a whole lot of luck,” local media quoted Charles as saying.

Former U.S. Open winner Campbell has not played competitively in six years and retired in 2015 but is using the 100th edition of the New Zealand Open to prepare himself for his first tilt on the European and U.S. senior circuits.

“I’m pretty nervous, I must say,” Campbell, who turned 50 on Saturday, told reporters. “It’s the first time I’ve had a scorecard in my back pocket for six years.

“It’s going to be pretty interesting on the first tee, but from the very beginning I’ve got no expectations - I’m here to celebrate a wonderful 100 years of the New Zealand Open, that’s a pretty cool thing and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Campbell won the tournament in 2000 and had planned to end his retirement and play in it last year but suffered a torn tendon in his ankle.

While he harboured little hope of winning the tournament, calculating his chances at less than two percent, Campbell was keen to prove he can still hold his own.

“It’s serious still. I want to do well, of course,” he said. “I want to prove to myself that I’ve got some unfinished business out there.

“I feel that if I keep fit, my body is healthy, I feel that I can actually do well out there again. It’s amazing how things come back very quickly.”

Campbell added that his play was now far more analytical than it had been in his prime, when he won seven other European Tour events and was ranked inside the world’s top 20.

His return to competition was more about enjoyment, he added.

“I’m not here to play 30 events a year, I did that for years,” he said. “I want to play 15 events, do well, win a couple of tournaments, say thank you and then move on for next year.

“I’m 50 so I want to just enjoy life.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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