The Aficionado

Alex Jenkins talks to Peter O'Neill, one of the legendary characters of Hong Kong club golf

Peter O'NeillHe may not be the finest golfer that Hong Kong has ever produced, but Peter O'Neill's story is right up there with the best of them.

Connecticut-born O'Neill, now in his eighties, arrived in Hong Kong via a whole stream of countries, including France, Germany, Spain, Ireland and Vietnam, in 1966 and has since become one of the most revered members at Shek O Country Club, which he joined that same year. Talk to the club's membership today and you get a very clear idea of how highly he is thought of. "There is nobody like O'Neill," one member told me over lunch at the Hong Kong Club. "He's charismatic – a great golfer in his time, yes – but he's much more than that. He has it all. A gentleman, an entrepreneur ... he's one of the most interesting people you could ever wish to meet."

More than a little intrigued, I bordered the ghastly TurboJet to Macau, where O'Neill now resides. With the Shek O member's endorsement ringing in my ears – not to mention the fact that the mysterious O'Neill has won numerous club events in recent years by beating his age – I was genuinely excited to meet him. Interviewing internationally-recognised professional golfers for a living is all well and good, but I know from experience, they don't always make the best copy. This O'Neill character, I thought, might be worth a yarn or two.

We've arranged to meet in the Clube de Militar, a colonial-era establishment in the centre of town, where O'Neill is a member. I arrive early and faff around checking my email in the bar, when all of a sudden I sense a figure behind me.