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Age no handicap for these masters of longevity game

While Chinese 14-year-old Guan Tianlang will become the youngest player to ever contest the US Masters, 69-year-old Mabel Crouch is not convinced he will last.

''The real test is if he's still going when he's as old as me,'' Crouch laughs. ''I don't think he will, he'll burn out or he'll get arthritis.''

This week's Centenary of Canberra Masters Golf Tournament is more blue rinse than green jacket.

While 93 of the world's best players will compete at Augusta this week for a share of $US8 million ($7.6 million), 44 of Australia's most enthusiastic golf devotees (and retirees) are in Canberra for the Centenary Masters and a crack at first prize - a $250 department store gift voucher.

They include 92-year-old Thomas Sample, of Bonnie Doon in Sydney. Sample, who plays off a handicap of 29, was about Tianlang's age when the very first US Masters - then known as the Augusta National Invitational - was won by Horton Smith in 1934.

''It makes me feel old,'' Sample cackles, walking off the Gungahlin Lakes 18th green. ''But as a peer asked me yesterday when we finished our round, 'What keeps you going at 92?' I said 'luck'. All the things you can pick up these days, you can be happy and healthy one moment and then the next moment you could be struck down. I feel lucky I've gone as long as I have.''


Lucky, too, to have first picked up a golf club when he was in his 50s. Sample now plays golf twice a week.

''I used to play A-grade tennis - in the Blackwell Cup - and when my partner started to call me 'Dad' I thought that was the time to give it up. I hated giving tennis up, but then I took to golf.

''My wife's not travelling too well at the moment, I'm a carer for her. So when I get the two breaks away during the week, it's complete relaxation. Playing on the Wednesday and Saturday is keeping me going.''

Crouch, of Mildura, was never about to miss this week's tournament in Canberra, which continues at Yowani on Thursday and Federal on Friday.

She won the tournament 20 years ago, in Western Australia, and the ACT is the only Australian state or territory in which she has not played. Having taken up golf at 30 with some of her nursing mates, she has been chasing the white ball for 39 years.

''My favourite player is [former women's world No.1] Laura Davies - just like me she's never had a lesson,'' said Crouch, who plays off 10 but has been as low as eight.

Having revealed golf as a secret to his long life, Sample's tip for this week's US Masters was the field against the re-established world No.1 Tiger Woods. ''I like to share it around - he's won a lot of trophies,'' he said.