Olympic shot put medallist Tom Walsh is living the dream this week – playing golf with some of his cricket heroes at the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open in Queenstown.
The 125kg super-strong Walsh, 24, speaking today (Wednesday March 8) at Millbrook Resort, said it was “good to get away from my other job” as a cricket fan and mix with the likes of Brendon McCullum, Stephen Fleming, Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting as a celebrity player in this week’s tournament.
Kiwi Olympian Tom Walsh was on fine form at Millbrook Resort – Photo credit: photosport.nz
Playing off an 11 handicap and paired with Kiwi pro Shaun Jones, he said his goal was to “get around with without losing too many balls” after admitting he would be standing on the first tee at The Hills tomorrow morning (Thursday) with his hands shaking.
Despite the assumption that his drive would be a key element of his game, he said his short game was actually better.
“I could try a wind-up spin for my drive, but I’m not sure if there was anyone standing in front of me that would be a good look,” he joked.
“I reckon I could drive somewhere between 270 to 290m off the tee, on a downhill run I might get to 300!
“If I score anything in the mid to high 80’s I’d be really happy with that.”
A mental skill he said he brings to his golf is the ability to forget about the previous shot or throw and just move on.
“That’s probably the difference between top professional golfers and the others so it’s a good skill to have.”
Walsh is playing in the tournament for the first time and said it capped off a “crazy” two years.
“I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences, especially in the last six months,” he said.
“This is an amazing place, they’ve done an amazing job and I can’t wait to play some golf, but I’ve still had a training session in the gym this morning and there’s a throwing session tomorrow.”
Walsh finishes up in Queenstown then the Olympic bronze medallist focuses on the shot put nationals in Hamilton and into the future.
“I’m in great nick for the world championships in London this year, that’s the big goal,” he said.
Walsh joins Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup sailor Sir Russell Coutts, New Zealand’s most-capped hockey player Ryan Archibald and Pittsburgh Major League baseball player Masumi Kuwata for the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open at Millbrook Resort and The Hills (March 9 – 12).
Also stepping outside their sporting comfort zone will be NZ cricket legends Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming, Aussie cricketers Shane Warne, Allan Border and Ricky Ponting, crowd-pleaser Sir Ian Botham, dual rugby and cricket international Jeff Wilson and former All Black Grant Fox.
They’re joined by celebrity chef Josh Emett and Australian TV personality and singer Kerri-Anne Kennerley, all playing as part of the tournament’s popular and successful Pro-Am format.