Graham Tolley — RIP


The following was sent in by Brian Holmes:

Where I met Graham was at an ex Aussie’s home in Phan.  Ian Bannerman had lived in Thailand for some 25 years, had a Thai wife and a western style house who enjoyed meeting and guiding new furang – particularly Aussies to the Thai culture.  It was at one of these ‘dinners’ that I met Graham.  I assisted Graham in some building changes he made at Thip’s home and he helped me with electrical changes at my home.  Our respective partners enjoyed each others company at many dinners and I enjoyed Grahams competitive nature at golf.

I believe Graham lived in Newcastle in the state of NSW. He joined a mining company as an electrician in the NW of WA before he claimed he was unfairly dismissed. The story goes that he and two other workers were required to fix an electrical problem at a railway crossing some 200 kms from anywhere. The temperature was in excess of 40 degrees,  nothing around overhead and the need to dig trenches to reach broken cables.  Hardhats and shirts were removed for the task. Unfortunately for Graham the ‘big boss ‘ turned up  and found the workers without the appropriate safety gear and were dismissed.  So Graham came to Thailand.

There were many great times with unquestionable loyalty to Thip and her family.  May he rest in peace.

The following was sent out by Chiang Rai Golfers.

Graham Tolley’s life in Thailand was marked by a fortunate chance meeting.

It came after his marriage in Australia broke up and he went on a Thai dating site.

Disappointingly, the woman he arranged to meet in a Bangkok hotel looked nothing like her picture.  But the chaperone she’d bought with her to the rendezvous … well, she was something else.

The intended date went off to powder her nose and Graham quickly exchanged phone numbers with the chaperone.

That was how, 10 years ago, his life began with Thip, from Chiang Rai. Graham at first balked at moving into her village house about 15km south of the White Temple but was won over after she agreed to one condition — the pigs and the chickens had to go!

He was soon making improvements to the house where, when not playing golf, he spent most of his time in family life with Thip, her grown children Thai and Frank, and a granddaughter nicknamed iPhone.

His favourite spot was a gazebo out the back where he was quite happy alone savouring a few whiskeys  and enjoying his domestic life.

Brian Holmes taught him the rudiments of the game and he joined Santiburi Golf Club. Over the years he has played on many golf courses in the region and won a number of tournaments.

The eight iron was his favourite club. And, although he didn’t generally have much to say on the course, the burly Aussie from Grafton in New South Wales was famous for yelling out “good caddie!” whenever he nailed a shot.

At the time of his death, he and John Cates were running the golf society Santiburi Members and Friends.

Graham’s life ended suddenly, aged 60,  just over a week ago. He’d been in hospital for a long time being treated for what at first seemed like food poisoning, which morphed into blood poisoning.

But after 49 days in Overbook Hospital he was out and told friends he was getting his strength back and looking forward to sharpening up again at the Santi driving range.

Then came the cluster headaches and more tests in hospital.  He was at home when he suffered a massive stroke and was taken to hospital again.  Graham never regained consciousness.

Many of his golfing friends and, it seemed, most of his village were there to farewell Graham at the Than Tong crematorium, in a short, moving ceremony. Then it was time to share memories of Graham over a few beers and fried chicken at Thip’s house.

By the reckoning of many of the old blokes still swinging a club in Chiang Rai his life  was tragically short. But for his golfing mates and those closest to him the memories of good times remain.

Funeral pictures can be found on Chiang Rai Golfers Facebook page.

My comment.

As the one that possibly played the most rounds with Graham over the last 4 years I will add my 2 bits worth.   There were a lot of fun times.   One of my favourites was when Graham was on the 9th tee and would start going “quack, quack” to those that were taking their second shots from the 8th fairway.  One day I yelled back to him that perhaps “quack, quack” wasn’t appropriate when a doctor was addressing his ball.

A great time was had by all last February when SMAF went on a road trip to Mae Moh.   I took the opportunity to commend Graham on the fine work he had done as the Commissioner.   It wasn’t an easy job because there are people in our community that take golf decisions personally.   Knowing Graham had put the group’s best interests ahead of personal relationships I presented Graham with a picture that I had named “The Ogre and The Jackass” because the photo reminded me of his mates that weren’t speaking to him at the time.

Mae Moh 2018 --Ogre and Jackass

I will always remember the many good times we had playing together (especially the next time I have a bad case of PLS).  We have lost a man that truly loved the game of golf.