By DALE LUMA
YOU will not miss his picture on the wall when you walk into the Royal Port Moresby Golf Club, a place he used to frequent with his golf buddy Sir Dadi Toka for years.
In fact it was Sir Dadi who introduced him into the game and became his “unofficial coach”.
“Sir Michael often hit the ball into the bushes more times than I could count.”
At the funeral service of his friend in Port Moresby last Friday, Sir Dadi told of how their friendship grew on the golf course, and the frequent trips they took around the country and overseas to show off their prowess in the sport.
“ Sir Michael often hit the ball into the bushes more times than I could count.”
“Through our friendship, I became his unofficial coach. But those who know Sir Michael know that these failings only made him more determined to master the sport.
“His personal character, a man of patience, determination, civil-mindedness and calm meant he quickly gained the skill he needed to play well.
“Through golf and our friendship, I had the opportunity to join him on many golf trips to Fiji and also to the Gold Coast Masters games.
“(Fiji’s) Prime Minister Ratu (Sir Kamisese) Mara and Sir Michael began the Ratu Mara golf challenge in the 1980s which continued annually for 25 years. This competition is the reason so many Papua New Guineans enjoy golf today.
“Golf became a lot like life for us. Sometimes you hit the long drive into the bushes, sometimes you miss and find yourself chipping at the side of the green.
“Sometimes you need to put your swimmers on and fetch the ball out of the water. Then you might have a day were every shot you hit lands just as you wanted it to.”
The two played the game into their old age. Both were born in 1936: Sir Dadi in March and Sir Michael in April.
“As I stand here today (Friday), the grand chief would have been wishing me happy 84th birthday. And it is with great sadness that I will not be meeting him as usually in 28 days’ time on his birthday.”
“Even when the Grand Chief found his legs unable to sustain him for a whole golf game, he simple drove the buggy beside me and golf allowed us to just exist together in normal life outside politics and the public eye.”
Sir Dadi always marveled at how his friend would greet everyone in a room and then would never forget their names, spouses, children and details of their lives.
“Everyone felt in his presence that they have been seen and heard. In our later years, we met often and discussed many dreams together. Dreams for our families, our people. His support for the Motu Koita people was a very special part of our friendship which he honored many times supporting many of my projects in the community.”
Sir Michael was generally a great supporter of golf and was the Royal Port Moresby Golf Club’s honorary patron. The club remembers him for securing the club’s 99-year land lease for sports and recreation.
Sir Dadi farewelled his golf mate and close friend as the two-week commemoration of his death ends with his burial at his Kreer Heights home tomorrow, saying his greatness was in his humbleness.”
“Greatness came naturally to the Grand Chief. He was a great leader, great father, great husband, great friend – and I tried my best to make him a great golfer. But that is another story.”