Golf: Cunning King dismisses Duke: Curious combination advance

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The Independent Online
The partnership of Michael King and James Healey gives a new definition to the image of an old head on young shoulders. In this company King, at 44, is in the Methuselah league but he and his 18-year- old courtier yesterday reached the semi-finals of the Sunningdale Foursomes.

In an open tournament in which young and old, male and female, amateur and professional, pay pounds 42.50 to compete, King and Healey won an absorbing quarter-final against two 16-year-olds, Jamie Little and Carl Duke. King was playing backgammon for money, and shaving, before these boys were born.

King, the past tense of golf, and Healey, the future, beat Tony Charnley and Richard Latham in the fourth round in the morning and were taken to the 18th by Little and Duke as the sun began to set in the afternoon. King, a former Walker and Ryder Cup player, kissed goodbye to his career as a Tour professional six years ago when arthritis began to make walking, let alone playing, a painful experience.

He has taken Healey, a family friend from Hull, under his wing at Sunningdale. The Yorkshire lad, a member of the cadet section here, is coached by King and two weeks ago he won the Spanish Amateur Championship in Barcelona. He went for his Tour card last season and was first reserve in the final qualifying school at Montpellier. Healey travelled to France but nobody withdrew. Had he hit a shot he would have lost his amateur status. He will go for his card again this year.

'I'm babysitting,' King, who uses a club as much as a walking stick as for its intended purpose, said. 'He's very refreshing to play with. I've got a guy who gives it a rip. He played some shots in the end which were magnificent.' They all did. After Healey holed from six feet to level the match at the 16th, Little (who earlier in the day had helped to put out his Moor Park coach, Lee Farmer) missed from three feet at the 17th. Nothing to do with nerves. At 16 he has never heard of them.

In the first semi-final today, King and Healey will play two veterans, at least comparatively speaking. David Howell and Gary Harris, both 18 and both from Broome Manor, put out Keith Maxwell, the professional here, and John Carr, son of Joe, one of Ireland's finest golfers.