Face-off with rugby star was Wilf's greatest moment
Despite having a handicap most people half his age would be rapt with, Wilf Bruce, 79, thinks he should be playing golf a whole lot better.
"I'm playing BA - bloody awful," the spry Horsham resident said in a moment of frank self-criticism.
"But that doesn't matter. I'm playing now for the exercise and company."
Many Wimmera people know Wilf as a keen golfer and, a few years back, as a talented tennis player. Many also know him as a bit of a character with a wicked sense of humor.
But almost 60 years ago Wilf went head-to-head with one of the greats of Australian rugby and lived not only to tell the tale of his greatest sporting moment but to tell it with his head held high.
It was September 3, 1939, and star centre Wilf was playing for Holbrook against Wagga Wagga Magpies in the NSW rugby league group 13 grand final.
Holbrook's rough and ready line-up was hungrily eyeing the premiership cup but one man stood in their way - Wagga Wagga leader and former Australian Test captain Eric Weissel.
"By that time he'd had it as an international but he was still head and shoulders above our standard," Wilf said.
"He wasn't a big bloke, probably no more than 11 stone, but he was very nimble footed. He was just magic."
Wilf had first-hand experience of that magic on grand final day as Weissel blitzed the Holbrook defence and steered Wagga Wagga to a thumping 24-3 premiership victory.
"He killed us. He cut us to ribbons," Wilf remembered.
"The ground we played on is now called the Eric Weissel Oval."
In spite of his team's big loss, Wilf still stamped his own authority on the match, grabbing plenty of the ball and winning selection as one of the top players on the paddock.
"I guess I did all right. I nearly scored a couple of times," Wilf said, playing down his performance against one of the best.
But the dazzling Holbrook lad had captured interest further afield than the Wagga Wagga oval. Shortly after the match he was invited to train with major league team Balmain, one of the top sides in the state.
But Wilf never played for Balmain. After the grand final he received an even bigger offer - to fight in the Second World War.
Wilf spent four years in the armed forced with the 59th Battalion and the 5th Machine-gun Battalion. He was stationed on Torres Strait islands for two years.
Wilf kept fit during his stint in the army, beating Victorian Football Association star Charlie Challenger in a hotly-contested sprint on Horn Island.
"I thought I'd better be able to run in case the Japs came," Wilf said.
After the war Wilf returned to the mainland and his young bride Beatrice. He resumed his rugby career but only lasted one more season.
"I had an agreement with Beatrice: I'd give up rugby if she gave up smoking," he said.
"The next year she started smoking again but I though 'bugger it' and didn't play again. At 29, I was getting too long in the tooth."
Wilf, an all-round sportsman, replaced rugby with tennis and golf, moving to Wangaratta, Bunyip and Traralgon with Beatrice before arriving in Horsham in 1972.
He was soon a regular fixture on the city's lawn tennis courts and at its golf club where he worked his handicap down to an admirable six.
A nagging shoulder injury and subsequent limited arm movement prevented him from dominating the lawn courts but he was a dab hand with a golf club, winning several titles including a captain's cup in 1989 and a summer pennant with Terry Pollock in 1977.
Health problems and the passing of Beatrice have hampered Wilf in the past few years but he said a good round of golf was just the ticket for keeping an 'old bugger' like himself in high spirits.
"The walk and exercise does me good. The company's not too bad either," he said.