Rugby union may be the game they play in heaven, but former Wallabies captain George Gregan says golf gives the 15-man game a run for its money.
Especially when it allows a Rugby World Cup-winning scrumhalf some unforgettable experiences in retirement.
After a decorated career that delivered six Bledisloe Cup victories and 1999 World Cup glory, Gregan's on-course highlights include caddying for Michael Campbell during the Wednesday Par-3 Tournament at The Masters, and meeting Tiger Woods on Pebble Beach's practice fairway at the US Open – both in the same year.
Most recently, the 43-year-old was taken to another setting that could be mistaken as heaven – Natadola Bayin Fiji.
Gregan was there as a PGA of Australia ambassador for the Fiji International. The 139-Test veteran and several members of Fiji's Olympic gold medal-winning Rugby Sevens side conducted a junior rugby clinic during the tournament.
"The Fiji International was a great week," says Gregan. "The people were beautiful, the event is great and Natadola Bay is just magical.
"Fiji is such a beautiful place to show off and then we had the gold medal-winning men's team for a rugby clinic, we did some great things. Growing the game of golf in Fiji is a long-term play.
"Vijay Singh said it was great to have a European Tour co-sanctioned event here because now Fijians can be inspired to pick up a club by a star like this year's winner Brandt Snedeker or (2015 Champion) Matt Kuchar."
Getting The Golf Bug
As a young Aussie of Zimbabwean heritage – who grew up playing the 15-man code in Canberra – Gregan was introduced to the game of golf while on holidays overseas.
"I got the bug when I was about 11 years of age," says Gregan. "I was in Zimbabwe with my cousin and he introduced me to golf. We played his local course and I hit a 7-iron over water to a par-3. I cleared the water and landed on the green and I thought, this is a cool game.
"That was it, I was absolutely hooked."
When he wasn't on the football field, Gregan couldn't get enough of hitting a much smaller ball around the tree-lined, hilly fairways of Federal.
"I grew up in Canberra. It was a year or two after my cousin gave me the golf bug that I joined Federal Golf Club. It was a great course to grow my love of the game."
As the domestic and international career of one of the most decorated Wallabies blossomed, so did his golf game. The wiry halfback found golf to be a great escape from the monotony of hotel rooms around the world – and the spotlight of rugby's Test arena.
"During my playing days, golf was a great way to get out of the hotel on a training-free day and help prepare for a Test with a really nice distraction," recalls Gregan. "I was lucky enough to experience courses in South Africa, the UK and Europe, New Zealand and South America. It was also a bit of competition with my teammates that we all enjoyed and bonded over."
Golf also played a small role in keeping the Wallabies vice-captain relaxed during one of his greatest accomplishments – the 1999 Rugby World Cup victory, particularly leading up to the final against France.
"We had a base in Dublin during the '99 World Cup, so of course I had to play Old Portmarnock," says Gregan. "I love traditional links, so I loved Portmarnock.
"It's a very special course with a huge history and I actually really enjoyed the weather. When it's raining or windy and cold, that's golf at its ultimate."
A Coffee Empire
George Gregan officially retired from rugby union in 2011 as one of the most recognisable faces in the sport's history. Hanging up the boots on an era that included two Super 12 (now Super Rugby) titles allowed Gregan to tackle his other passion – barista made coffee.
He and wife Erica founded the Sydney-based Gregan Group, which has grown to 16 cafes, as well as wine bars, bistros and a thriving catering business. But, of course, there's also more time to play his favourite courses.
"Now that I don't play a heavy collision sport, golf is a way to compete without banging into someone that's 40 kilograms heavier than you," says Gregan. "Like any sport, there's always something you can improve on and I love that about golf.
"I've played Royal Melbourne and some of the Sandbelt courses, but Barnbougle and Lost Farm would be my favourites. I also love the old Coolum course because I used to go up there to play the Pro-Am when Peter Lonard was at his best.
"Golf is a great game. Once you get the golf bug, it stays with you for life. And if you're pretty good at it and you don't mind competing you can travel the world with it."
Headlines at a glance
- Gibson top Aussie in Panama 21.02.2017
- Scott off to good start at Riviera 21.02.2017
- Rumford dominates ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth 19.02.2017
- ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth round 4 draw 19.02.2017
- Thrills and spills as top-24 determined at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth 18.02.2017
- Hawkes flies low at Heidelberg 18.02.2017
Gibson top Aussie in Panama
After three good rounds of golf Rhein Gibson will leave Panama with a slightly sour taste in his mouth, a 3-over Sunday effort costing him his first t...
World Super 6 Perth
Video: ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth Tournament Wrap
Check out the action from the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth at Lake Karrinyup 16-19 February
World Super 6 Perth
Video: Round 4 Highlights
The inaugural ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth is in the books for 2017, congratulations to Champion Brett Rumford who bested Phachara Khongwatmai in th...