Meet 92-year-old golfer Ray Marshall – a former D-Day Veteran who still enjoys hitting the fairways
- Credit: Archant
If I’m still playing golf when I’m in my 90s, I will be a happy man!
In fact, if I’m still playing golf, not once, not twice, but three times a week when I’m in my 90s, I’ll be even happier.
However, for Ray Marshall, three times a week on the golf course is the norm.
The 92-year-old, Ipswich born-and-bred former D-Day Veteran and oldest playing member of Rushmere Golf Club is a truly remarkable character.
Born in 1925 and schooled at Tower Ramparts, in Ipswich, Ray has crammed much – very much – into his 92 years.
From surviving German ‘butterfly’ bombs in the Second World War on the beaches of France, to dodging Afghan bullets on the Kyber Pass on his 21st birthday, Ray has many a story to tell.
Married for more than 50 years to his late wife Peggy and with a daughter, Toni Jayne, and two grandchildren, Ray has never let the grass grow under his feet, with sport front and centre of much of his world.
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With this in mind I took a trip to Rushmere Golf Club to meet him – and play a few holes of course... be rude not to!
It was a pleasant enough afternoon with a spit of drizzle in the air which cleared as I arrived to play with Ray and his friends David Earle and Ivan Smith.
The three are usually four with Robin Bloyce in attendance – but he couldn’t make it, so I was in.
Ray only plays nine holes these days – but he does so three days a week.
“I would play more, but I can’t on my own and this lot (pointing to David and Ivan) have other commitments, like gardens and wives and stuff,” he laughs. His sharp wit makes me laugh too.
Much of Ray’s life has revolved around sport.
A Life Member of both Ipswich Swimming Club and Ipswich Sub-Aqua Club, this is a man who has always loved the water.
“I did enjoy swimming very much and still do occasionally at home. I have a swimming pool at home,” he said.
“I used to love water polo. I remember once playing the Met Police in the round pond at Christchurch Park. They were all big fellows, about 6ft 4ins. It was only 6ft deep, so most of them could stand. It was easy for them.”
A former Class One football referee, Ray played at Portman Road in the Saul Charity Cup Final in 1946, while he was also a prolific skier – though his skiing came to an end when, at 76, a ‘youngster’ knocked him over on the piste – Peggy deciding he should ‘stop that now’!)
We teed-off on the first, either David or Ivan placing Ray’s tee for him so he doesn’t have to bend over too much.
A steady swing and a ‘ping’ down the middle, Ray, who joined Rushmere in 1957, has been down as low as a 12 handicapper and has seen more than 50 club captains come and go, doesn’t hit it far these days, but is rarely off the fairway either – repeat to yourself Michael: ‘is rarely off the fairway either!’
Our game moves at a decent pace with Ray in his buggy nipping along nicely. His putting impresses me.
I have to smile when he tops a shot down the fifth and mutters to himself, ‘keep your bloody head still, Ray’ – you never lose that competitive edge.
David and Ivan are ideal partners for him, as well as good friends, their easy manner meaning the nine holes are a delight.
Indeed, I’m going along quite nicely myself with a few pars already on the card, until I suffer a ‘hair brain’ moment on the ninth and smash my drive in the rough and my second shot out of bounds.
“You’ve just done something I’ve never done in 60 years of playing on this hole,” quips Ray. “Gone out of bounds!”
I thank him graciously for his comments!
Back in the clubhouse afterwards, I quiz Ray, who by now is consuming the biggest piece of Victorian sponge I’ve seen for many a long year, as to the secret of his longevity.
“I keep busy,” he said.
“I always find something to do, that’s the secret. I never get bored. That’s why I play golf three times a week.”
He makes me smile when he says the only time he has smoked was ‘to keep the mosquitos away when I was in India’, while he is rightly proud of achieving four holes-in-one during his golfing career, the first one back in 1980.
It was a thoroughly pleasant afternoon on the Rushmere course, with the greens in excellent condition and in the company of very pleasant people.
None more so than 92-year-old Ray – a man who likes to keep busy – long may it continue.