Modern Heroes for a Jaded Generation
The modern age appears to promote conformity, however once in a while, somebody comes along with their own ideas, ideals and beliefs and despite ridicule, hate or ignorance, they choose to step off the path and through self-belief and determination, try to achieve their goals or ambitions. Some achieve it, some come very close, many fail trying, but to me, these are true heroes and this is my salute to them; Modern Heroes, all of them!
In 1976, the shipyard crane operator decided he wanted a hobby and sent off for a mail-order half-set of golf clubs. After a while practising in local fields, Maurice set his ambitions at the top end of the sport and managed to secure a place in the qualifying round of the 1976 British Open Championship at St.Andrews. On registering, as he had never actually played on a course, he had no official handicap but was able to register as a "Professional" to gain entry.
In the weeks leading up to his opening round, Maurice honed his skills by borrowing golfing books from his local library and practising on his local beach. On the big day, Maurice managed to achieve the worst score in the tournaments 141 year old history - achieving 121 - 49 over par! Maurice, however became a media sensation and after his disastrous round, quoted that his poor performance was due to lumbago and fibrosis and the fact that he had left his four-wood in the car and that if that hadn't happened, the outcome could have been very different!
The 1976 Open was eventually won my the American Johnny Miller (with a young Seve Ballesteros coming second) and the Royal & Ancient tightened it's entry rules. However, this didn't stop Maurice trying to enter the 1977 British Open and following prolonged correspondence, was eventually banned for life from Royal & Ancient tournaments.
Refusing to give up on his quest for greatness, Maurice managed to enter a qualifying round in 1978 under an assumed name (Gene Paceki) but was discovered after a couple of holes and forcibly ejected from the course! He tried again in 1983 under another assumed identity and this time, a disguise, which although managed to get through 9 holes, again before being discovered.
Maurice become a minor golfing celebrity continuing to receive fan-mail for many years and even having a number of trophies named after him. On reaching retirement he devoted his life to his beloved golf but was eventually banned from all his local clubs for sneaking onto courses without paying. He died in March 2007. Maurice left a legacy of being proclaimed "the World's Worst Golfer" and has recently had a biography published titled "The Phantom of the Open" - A True sporting Legend!
Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards
Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards was a plasterer from Gloucester in England and Great Britain's first ever competitor in the Ski Jump. While Eddie was a competent skier, he had hoped to join the GB team for the 1984 games but had failed to make the team, instead he decided to move to the US and switch to ski-jumping to enable him to make the team (as there were no other British ski-jumping competitors at the time) and managed to qualify for the 1987 world championship with a ranking of 55th in the world.
Somehow, with no money and no sponsorship, the determined Eddie managed to get some training in Finland (whilst borrowing a bed in a mental hospital), and then Switzerland. Despite his thick spectacles misting with steam and his helmet attached with only string (the Italian team gave him a helmet and the Austrian team some new skis) he managed to perform some competitive jumps and despite some injuries he was able to qualify for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and be accepted as a member of the British Team.
It was his valiant attempts during the Calgary Olympics that endeared the 24 years old Eddie to the hearts of millions and despite coming last in each of his jumps at 70M & 90M events, Eddie was singled out in the closing speech by the president of the organizing committee (by mentioning that some competitors "soared like an eagle" at which point 100 thousand spectators chanted his name). Following the Olympics, the rules were changed so that only the world's top 50 jumpers could compete (in the US, this is still known as the Eddie rule). Despite this, Eddie attempted to qualify for the 1992, 1994 & 1998 games without success.
Eddie become a minor celebrity following the peak of his fame and released a couple of records. In Early 2016, "Eddie The Eagle" was released into Cinema's by 20th Century Fox and starred Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman & Christopher Walken, amongst others. Although the film script is evidently "inspired" by actual events, rather than a straight docudrama, it was nonetheless warmly received by critics, with Rotten Tomatoes rating it 80%. Since reaching his peak in the early eighties, Eddie had made and lost a small fortune, due to his trust fund going into liquidation and despite numerous attempts, he was never able to break back into the world of competitive ski-jumping, due to resentment by the establishment. He has however trained as a lawyer and still gives motivational speeches and puts in personal appearances, still making a good living by being "Eddie The Eagle".
Between 1969 and 1993, Londoner Stanley Edwards waged a one man moral crusade on passion and lust (through the intake of protein) on the unsuspecting (and indifferent) members of the public of the City of London, England. Each weekday and on Saturdays, Stanley would twelve miles from his home and walk the streets of London's West End Shopping streets, most notably Oxford Street, carrying a large sign with the now legendary statement "LESS LUST BY LESS PROTEIN : MEAT FISH BIRD: EGG CHEESE : PEAS BEANS NUTS AND SITTING". Stanley produced a helpful booklet which he sold to members of the public outlining his guidance on maintaining a low protein diet and and therefore reducing lustful and amorous feelings. It is believed that he reached his moral conclusions as a member of the Navy during the second world war and that it was the general immoral attitudes and high sexual libido of his fellow sailors that drew him to conclude that it was their high protein diet that was a major cause of their amorous behaviour. Following various jobs eventually leading to becoming a self-employed gardener and (unsurprisingly, confirmed bachelor),Stanley was able to devote most of his time to his campaign and for 25 years or so, he was a familiar site in London's West End, although his viewpoint wasn't often appreciated by the general public, he was often ridiculed and spat at, but he was single-minded and persisted and it is believed that he sold nearly 90,000 copies of his self-penned pamphlets. Stanley was an eccentric legend who sadly died in 1993, however his legacy lives on at the Museum of London, where his signboard is on display.
Larry Walters (AKA Lawn Chair Larry)
In 1982, truck driver and amateur aviation enthusiast from California had long nurtured dreams of flight and struck upon a plan to engineer his own innovative flying machine. He attached 42 helium-filled weather balloons to his favourite lawn chair, equipped himself with an air-rifle (to assist in the landing process), some refreshments and a camera and with assistance from friends, tentatively began cutting the cords tethering him to the ground.
The maiden flight of Larry's flying lawn chair far exceeded both his and his friends expectations and instead of the gentle ascent to 2-300 feet that Larry had calculated, he shot up to a height of 16,000 feet (approximately 3 miles!) and had caused much surprise to a couple of passing airline pilots who alerted the Federal Aviation Authority to Larry's presence. Larry drifted for the next two hours before bravely initiating his descent with the aid of his air-rifle and landed safely in Long Beach, but not before his deflated balloons hitting power lines and causing a two hour blackout on the vicinity. Larry was arrested and when asked for a comment by waiting press, enigmatically quipped "A man can't just sit around" a Federal Aviation spokesman was quoted as saying "We know he broke some part of the federal aviation act , and as soon as we decide which part it is, a charge will be filed".
Larry was eventually fined $1500 by the FAA. Larry gave up his job as a truck driver and was an occasional motivational speaker although with not a great deal of success, failing to fully capitalise on his moment of triumph. Sadly he took his own life in 1993. A true free spirit!
Eric "The Eal" Moussambani
Following a wildcard entry into the Sydney Summer 2000 Olympic Games, Eric Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea appeared on the International sporting scene and caused a global sensation.
Despite the Olympic swimmer never having set eyes on a 50M (160ft) Olympic standard swimming pool (he was able to practice in a local hotel 13m pool) until the morning of his qualifying heat in the 100M free event and only having taken up the sport of swimming 8 months previously, Eric "The Eal" soon became a media sensation. Eric's legendary status was sealed when struggled to finish, but finish he did and achieved a time of just over twice that Dutch Swimmer Pieter Van Den Hoogenband at 1 minute 52.72 Seconds, to rapturous audience applause on his final straight. Afterwards Eric was quoted as stating "the last 15 Meters were very difficult" and later admitted that half way through, he had thought of giving up but that the cheering had kept him going.
Following the heat, unsurprisingly, he failed to qualify for the finals but he expressed his desire to get a good coach and return for the 2004 Olympics with a hope of gaining a medal. Sadly, due to visa restrictions, his dream was to remain unfulfilled, however in 2012, Eric was appointed Equatorial Guinea's National Swimming Coach and the country, thanks in part, to Eric's inspiration, now has a 50M Olympic Standard Swimming Pool.
Rising stars of the future?
It has been a while since any individual has captured the Media and Public's imagination, so are there any individuals who we should be looking out for? Well here are my top contenders;
The Afghanistan National Golf Team
Consisting of 19 year old Ali Ahmed Fazil and 20 year old Hashmattulah Sarwaree, the team made their International debut at the Asian Games in November 2010 at Guangzhou, China. They faced their International debut with a golfing obstacle that they had never before encountered - Grass! They had learnt their game on Afghanistan's only golf course, a 9-hole course in Kabul that is constructed from sand and oil (the oil stops the sand from blowing away) and had only been cleared of landmines in 2008. Despite taxi driver Sarwaree finishing third from last with 116 over and full- time student Fazil finishing last at 179 over (par total 467, against South Korean, Kim Meen-Whee's 15 under and 273 total), Fazil was optimistic about the tournament and was quoted as saying with a big smile "I'm satisfied with what I did, I want to be a professional golfer someday" and Sarwaree commented on the 18 hole course "It's totally different here, it's so big and there's grass". Despite the team having very limited funding, I don't think it will be the last we hear of them and I really hope they make progress on the International scene.