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New entrance gates for the Australian Golf Club, Sydney, Kensington, Saturday, 20 June 1998: address on the occasion of the opening.

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Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me say at the outset what a great pleasure it is for me to be here today for the Official Opening of the new entrance gates. There are a variety of reasons for that pleasure.

The first is that this is the first opportunity I have had to visit the Australian Golf Club since I became its Patron. As Patron, I join a very distinguished group of former Govemors-General: Lord Denman, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, Lord Stonehaven and the Earl of Gowrie VC. The last of those 4, Lord Gowrie, was Governor-General from 1936 to 1945. In fact, he became Patron of the Australian Golf Club before he became Governor-General, having been appointed as Patron in 1935 while he was Governor of New South Wales. During the half century and one year between his ceasing to be Patron and my appointment as Patron, the role of Patron has been discharged by a succession of distinguished Governors of New South Wales. I am most honoured to be following in their footsteps.

Another reason why it is such a pleasure to be here today is that, as has been mentioned, I was for a considerable number of years a playing member of this Club. I hasten to add that I was a most undistinguished member. Indeed, I sincerely hope that one good thing that may have emerged from the great fire of 1982 is that all records of handicaps of players before that date have been destroyed. If they have not, I would be interested to know whether the office of Patron, carries with it any privileges in relation to the destruction of early records. The memories of my membership of the Club, apart from stapleford points and the like, are all happy ones. The reason why my membership came to an end was a combination of arm trouble which prevented me playing golf and a family move to the outer Western Suburbs and then Moss Vale which made the journey between Golf Club and home an extremely long one.

Finally, of course, Mr President, a particular reason for my pleasure at being here today is our personal friendship which traces back to school days, more years ago than either of us really likes to remember. I am particularly proud to recall that your confidence in my discretion even extended to my being entrusted with proposing the toast to you and Jeanette at your wedding reception. You follow a line of outstanding previous

Presidents, including Chief Justice Les Herron, a close friend of my wife’s family, and Justice Bob Taylor, an old friend of mine.


It is also a particular pleasure for me to see a number of old golfing companions here today. My close friend, Dennis Mahoney, my brother-in-law, Paul Russell, and a particularly valued old golfing companion, John McGuire, to name but three. I describe John McGuire as a particularly valued golfing companion for a number of reasons, including shared memories of a close joint friend, Ken Johnston A less personal reason is that I have a vivid memory of his concerned shout of “Look out God” after I hit a particularly bad shot off what was then the 7th tee.

In thinking about what I would say this morning, it occurred to me that any speech at a function even vaguely connected with golf should be replete with golfing jokes. With that in mind, I turned to the Internet and dutifully typed in “golf jokes”. I was informed that there were no less than 1,384,740 separate addresses satisfying that description. I had a quick look at the first half dozen addresses to find that each contained a considerable number of so called golf jokes. In fact, almost without exception, they were husband and wife jokes. For example, the first joke on address number one consisted of one lady saying to a friend that she “had got a secondhand set of golf clubs for her husband”. “What a good exchange” the second lady was reported as saying. The second joke was a variation of a joke which used to be told when I was playing golf. It recounted the story of three golfers playing on a course near a public road when a very long funeral procession went past. One of the golfers crouched down and burst into tears. “I have never seen anyone so moved by a funeral procession” one of his companions said. “That’s true”, the distraught replied. “But it would have been our Ruby Wedding Anniversary next year”.

At that stage I reached the conclusion that perhaps I should leave the matter of golfing jokes until after I have ceased to be Governor-General.

On a more serious note let me congratulate the President, the Associates President, the Captain, the Associates Captain and all the other office holders and all the members of the Australian Golf Club on these beautiful entrance gates which are now being officially opened. The gates and railings, set into sandstone pillars and supporting wall, were designed by Mr Michael Dysart who was, of course, also the Architect of the new Club House. They replace the existing gates with a design that both reflects the new Club House building and commemorates the fact that the Club has been in existence for well over a century. They provide a thoroughly appropriate entrance for our nation’s senior Golf Club. I sincerely hope that all who pass through them during the few remaining years of this century and all the years of the next will find the pleasure and the satisfaction that comes from participating in a truly great sport and membership of a truly wonderful Club.

And let me conclude with the further hope that, subject to one qualification, the traditions of this our nation’s oldest Golf Club will be jealously preserved as the Club passes through all the milestones that lie ahead. The qualification is, of course, that I think we are all agreed that it is time that the Australian Golf Club’s tradition of burning its Club

House down every 50 years was brought to an end now that these wonderful facilities are all in place.

And now, with great pleasure, I declare these entrance gates of the Australian Golf Club to be officially open.