VALE:Bob Glading passes away aged 94

BY New Zealand Golf | 19 Aug 2014

The Board of New Zealand Golf is sad to hear the news that Bob Glading – a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit – has passed away at the age of 94.

Glading, a two-time NZ Open Champion, passed away at 2:40am this morning and will be missed by many members of the golf community.

He left his family peacefully and while they are naturally very sad, the Glading family has much to be thankful for.

Paul Fyfe, the Chairman of the Board of New Zealand Golf, said that Glading was one of the game’s great characters.

“Bob was a legend in New Zealand golfing circles for the things that he achieved but more importantly the person that he was,” he said.

“His love for the game was infectious and anywhere he went around New Zealand he was warmly greeted. Everyone loved Bob. He was always at our New Zealand Opens talking about the game he loved with anyone and everyone he came across. He will be sorely missed by our golf community and the many people’s lives he touched. Our thoughts are with the Glading family as they cope with their loss.”

R.H Glading left a lasting impression on the game of golf in many ways throughout his celebrated career but his legend will extend far from the golf course.
Caddy, coach, NZ Open champion and club-maker Glading had done it all in the game of golf. However he first made a name for himself as a Navy pilot.

Soon after World War II, Glading was presented a medal by one of New Zealand’s most famous soldiers.

Governor-General Bernard Freyberg awarded Glading the Distinguished Service Cross for his wartime service.

The Governor-General wanted to know if Glading was the golfer and was quickly told by Lady Freyberg: “Of course he’s the golfer.”

Glading was in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, flying Corsairs, the renowned American planes which were dangerous to land on aircraft carriers.

He flew around 50 operations, in Norway then the Pacific, often on attacking missions against Japanese targets.

“While you are scared when they are firing at you, you basically feel it is not going to happen to you. The DSC wasn’t for any heroics but because I was lucky enough to survive,” he told the NZ Herald.

Glading flew bravely against the enemy in a war which made even less sense to him in his later years.

He believed it was a fight for freedom at the time but in his later years wondered whether it was more about defending the interests of industrialists.

He didn’t complain but his war service cut short his dreams of becoming a golf professional in America.

Glading holds a special piece of NZ golf history – he is most famous for claiming consecutive New Zealand Open titles in 1946 and 1947.

He received his second award of note – membership of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s honours list in 2007 for his remarkable services to golf. It came 60 years after his New Zealand Open wins.

Glading first ignited his passion for golf when he was growing up in Lower Hutt. His father, who was a builder, gambled most of the family’s money away on horses.

The Glading brothers quickly realised that one and sixpence could be earned as caddies at the Hutt course and Bob was hooked.

In 1932 he caddied at the New Zealand Open in Heretaunga which was a huge thrill. The game was played by doctors, solicitors and professional people.

Glading said that golf in New Zealand only became a sport for “the people” in the mid to late 1930s when it began to grow in popularity among all sections of the community before being interrupted by World War II.

“With peace restored in 1945, interest rocketed among all sections of the community, Maori golfers joining their European club mates to work together in promoting the game at club, district and national level. In this respect New Zealand was well ahead of other countries – apart from Scotland – in per head of population playing the game. Golf was establishing itself as the game for all who wanted to play.”

Glading recalled an amusing story which summed up the growth and development of the game in the late 1940s and on into the 50s and 60s.

“I was working in Hamilton at the time and one day upon entering a local store, I noticed a Maori chap sweeping the gutter. He knew my face and as I left the store, he called out “Bob”, so I walked over, wondering what he wanted.

“Have a look at my swing will you, I’m slicing my drives all over the place,” whereupon he started swinging his broom. After giving him a couple of tips showing the cause of his problem and how to fix things, I was on my way.

“It was highly amusing and could only happen in New Zealand as I was at the time holder of the New Zealand Open title and golf was still considered in most countries as sport for the (upper class) rather than like this council worker.

“Can we imagine some of the temperamental players we see on courses today being accosted after a bad day at, say St Andrews in Scotland by a street-sweeper requesting help with his golf swing – the mind boggles!”

Soon after World War II, Glading enjoyed the defining stretch of his career.

In 1946 Glading won the New Zealand Open Championship as an amateur at the Manawatu Golf Club in a playoff, using Persimmon woods he had whittled himself. A canteen couldn’t be found so his cutlery prize was wrapped in paper.

“I celebrated by getting the train that night and going second-class back to Hamilton to work the next day,” Glading remembered.

His first New Zealand Open win was the highlight of his career.

“I’d wake up in bed at night sometimes and think, ‘I’m the Open champion’,” he said.

Glading turned professional in 1947 and defended his title at the New Plymouth Golf Club the next year.

In 1952 he entered in the British Open but the Admiralty sent Glading to join aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable at Malta. It was a big disappointment in his career and one he ranked alongside failing to keep any of the old clubs he made.

Glading would go on to work as a journalist. He wrote a column for The Cut magazine called ‘That Reminds Me’ into his 90s, was a commentator on TV, and was on the Board of the golfing charity The First Tee of New Zealand.

In 1999 Glading enjoyed his only hole in one of his career on the eighth hole at Muriwai.

“I estimate it was my 13,000th attempt. Did it with a yellow ball, I much prefer them. They show up so well. But it’s hard to get good quality ones anymore.”

He had to eat some humble pie as he had recently written a column criticising the par three at the West-Auckland links because of its green which had no character.

Glading fulfilled a lifelong dream in 2004 when he played 81 holes over three days at Augusta National – the famed home of The Masters.

In 2006 his affinity with the New Zealand Open continued at the Gulf Harbour Country Club north of Auckland.

Glading, who was the oldest surviving New Zealand Open golf winner at the age of 86, and playing on a single-figure handicap, entered an Emirates Airlines hole-in-one contest.

His second attempt at the 80m target went in. That put Glading in the draw for a business class trip for two to Dubai with the airline, which he won. On the trip he attended the Dubai Desert Classic and got to watch World No.1 Tiger Woods in action.

His love for the game and charm were infectious for all that he came across in his travels.

He was well-known for driving long distances. For example he drove from Auckland to Queenstown in 2007 to be a spectator at the New Zealand Open.

The tournament, which was the first staged at The Hills Golf Club, was a particular highlight as his good friend Sir Bob Charles was the talking point as the oldest player to make the cut of a European Tour event at the age of 71.

Glading said of Charles’ performance: “He played some of the finest shots I have ever seen him play to help him make the cut at The Hills. I was delighted to see he changed his putter after the first day and he was the putter of old again."

As a budding club professional Glading was 17 when he met 15-year-old Margaret at the St Andrews golf course in Hamilton. Margaret’s family were green-keepers and caterers. Bob and Margaret corresponded through the war without being sure they would marry.

They went on to have three children in a family where golf was a dominant theme.

Michael Glading, his eldest son, was the Tournament Director of the NZ PGA Championship at The Hills in 2012 – 2013 and is the current Tournament Director of the New Zealand Open.

Glading’s friends included World Golf Hall of Fame members such as South Africans Gary Player and the late Bobby Locke, Australian Peter Thomson and Sir Bob Charles.

In his later years, Glading was still a larger-than-life character known for his boyish charm.

He met Michael Campbell and offered the former US Open Champion some advice in turning his game around.

“I believe he gets a bit out of tempo. I thought he’d think, ’Silly old bugger’ but he said that funnily enough, that was what he was working on.”

Glading played twice a week at the North Shore Golf Club, where he was the Club Patron, regularly scoring in the low 80s as a 90-year-old.

His family laughed about his frustrations with the game.

Glading said: “About 200 yards with a bit of run is all I get now. I try not to play like an old man and get a bit of action through the hitting area. But it still doesn’t go as far as it should. I say to myself, I mustn’t get irritated. At least I’m still on the grass, not underneath it.

At the Centenary celebrations of New Zealand Golf in 2010 Glading stole the show.

Sir Bob Charles opened the momentous occasion with a tee shot from the first hole at Heretaunga that went straight down the middle.

The left-handed legend obliged by shooting a round of 69 on the testing layout, five under his age. But Charles was only second best on the day. The 90-year-old Glading completed his 18 holes in 80, 10 under his age in what was a masterful display by the veteran.

“That has to rank as one of my most enjoyable rounds of golf ever,” said Phil Aickin, New Zealand Golf’s Golf Manager, who played alongside Glading in the Centenary day.

“To watch Bob play with such consistency and to illustrate such soft hands with his short game was amazing. He was unlucky to not have broken 80.”

The day before the Centenary Celebrations, Glading drove from Auckland to Wellington by himself. His love for Paraparaumu was such that he stopped in to play 13 holes, carrying his clubs, before continuing the journey.

“Now that is incredible and it summed up Bob’s passion for the game,” said Aickin.

At the Centenary dinner at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, Glading was again a standout.

In his speech he said: “I was married to my late wife Margaret for the past 63 years and I can honestly say that I never forgot her birthday.” It was met by a round of applause.

“I guess I should add that her birthday was the same day as mine,” Glading said with a smile.

Bob’s memorial service will be held at the North Shore Golf Club on Tuesday August 26 at 3pm.

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