Date: November 26, 2014
Author: Mark Hayes @ The Australian

From either side, Lara still makes it look easy


There was a fluent swing from a familiar looking face at the Emirates Australian Open pro-am at The Australian this morning.

From a distance and with a familiar loping walk, you could have sworn it was Brian Charles Lara, the West Indian cricketing deity.

But it can’t be … he’s playing right-handed.

A few paces closer and it has to be him. All Australian sports fans remember the fresh face that tortured our bowlers, especially that glorious 1993 masterpiece at the nearby SCG where he carved the 277 that, in part, defined his career.

The softly spoken Trinidadian is as approachable as ever and more than happy to talk to those who are now appreciating his skills at a second sport.

And yes, he has a pretty big game.

Lara says batting is the only sporting action he makes left-handed – and the graceful motion of his golf swing is clear evidence.

“Yeah, I only bat left-handed, nothing else. I don’t know why,” he chirps.

There is a precedent for such things – and it’s remarkable close to home.

The great West Indian all-rounder Garfield Sobers could play golf both left and right-handed.

And he so loved Australia and golf that he once played pennant for Northern Golf Club in Melbourne.

Lara pounds one down the middle as we join him for a hole or two, enough to catch the eye of playing partner and US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.

“That’s good … really good,” the Victorian said.

Lara, a three handicapper at his home club St Andrews in Trinidad, says it takes him “four or five holes” to warm up.

“I am a morning person, but under this kind of pressure on the 10th tee box with Geoff and guys like Rory (McIlroy) and Adam (Scott) watching you, it’s a bit uncomfortable,” he said.

“I try to play off three – when you play at your home course and you feel comfortable with the surrounds you know, you play a bit better.

“I’d say roughly five or six (handicap) is comfortable for me around here.”

Lara talks of the far tougher public scrutiny his game once had when he was learning golf, thrust into a pro-am alongside Scotsman Colin Montgomerie at England’s famous Wentworth course in front of heaving crowds.

“I’m a bit more comfortable now. Especially being here in Australia. I always enjoy my time in Australia (and I’m) looking forward to playing more golf.”

Helping that comfort is his ability to chat cricket with his pro-am partners, including Ogilvy.

“It’s nice to play with Geoff, I feel very comfortable. He’s a nice guy and knows his cricket, easy to talk to.

“I feel right at home in Australia, particularly in Sydney (the city after which his daughter is named).

“I’m excited to be here for the Open. It’s a great course and I can’t wait to see how they go tomorrow.”