How has the HSC changed in 50 years?

Ross Greenwood speaks to Australian golfing legend, Jack Newton, about his memories of being one of the first to sit the exam back in 1967 as the HSC celebrates 50 years

Introduction: How has the HSC changed in 50 years?

Ross Greenwood: Something else that’s happening today. The English exam for the HSC. The curiosity of today and the HSC in New South Wales, it’s the 50th anniversary of the very first HSC. When the HSC started there were 28 subjects that you can actually choose from. Today there are 127 subjects that you can choose from. Today, there’s around 70,000 people who sit at least one exam in the HSC. In, well, 1967 as it was there’re around 18,000 students.

Now I thought we’d go back and have a little listen to some of the more, should I say, noted HSC graduates from 1967. One of them, we’ve went and had a bit of look around and found one. That man is on the line right now. I just wonder how much study he was doing in that year though because if it was 1967, do bear in mind by 1975, he was actually the runner up in the British Open golf championship.

It was an astonishing thing. Jack Newton was beaten that year in an 18 hole playoff by Tom Watson, one of the great masters of golf. In 1980, he was the runner up in that particular year to Seve Ballesteros who was aged 23, won his first major. I tell you what, Jack Newton was the runner up to that as well and we know the travails that Jack Newton subsequently had. But in 1967 he was sitting there, studying for his HSC. Good day, Jack. How are you doing?

Interview with: Jack Newton, Australian Golfing Legend

Jack Newton: Good day, Ross. How are you?

Ross Greenwood: Good, thank you. Were you’re a good student in 1967, for your HSC?

Jack Newton: Well mate, I tried hard but I’d have to say that I really went to school to play sport.

Ross Greenwood: Yes, that’s probably right. Can you remember anything of those days going to school in 1967?

Jack Newton: I played in our Rugby Union side and of course we were the first to Wyndham Scheme. We were 15, basically, or around that. Homebush and a couple of other schools that were in our zone, so to speak. Some of these guys have repeated leaving certificate a couple of times. I remembered we tried to plan in first grade, in the first particular year of the Wyndham scheme.

Ross Greenwood: They’re probably bigger than you. Can you remember what you studied in that year in your HSC?

Jack Newton: My worst subject was science but I was pretty good at Maths and okay in English. then I ran out of options, I did French for four years.

Ross Greenwood: I got a funny one for you. Do you know a third of kids in 1967 did French and there were, I think it was five students, in the whole state in that year that studied Japanese. Whereas right now, this year, Japanese is the most popular language for kids to take. Which is astonishing, and it’s only a fraction of kids who take French these days.

Jack Newton: Yes, it was quite ironic. Basically French to come across the board and then my mother said, “Yes, you should learn French. You might use that one day.” I said, “Oh, don’t be silly, mom.” As it turned out I ended up going right through to the end with the French. But I think the modern day teachings of languages these days is far better than those years.

Ross Greenwood: And yet, the weird thing is with your golf career as it became, the language would have been absolutely vital to you at some stage. I would’ve thought it would’ve helped your golf career and helped your marketability around the world as a golfer.

Jack Newton: Yes, it was quite extraordinary. We were in a French restaurant one night with a couple of Irish mates of mine and an English man. The maitre d’ sat us down and we continued to speak in English and —

Ross Greenwood: Oh, we’re having trouble with that phone line. We might just trying to get Jack Newton back. But how’s that for a great story? So you sit there and studying French but the irony of it is 1967, the Wyndham Scheme came in. As a result, people suddenly found a totally different way in which they were studying. This is the thing. And of course, Jack Newton, as I say, went on with those incredible golf tournaments.

We’re just trying to get him back on as well because I want to have a quick chat to him about some of his charity work that he’s done as well. I think we got him back now. Let’s put him straight across. There he is. You’re back on the line, Jack. Sorry about that. I just dropped out.

Jack Newton: At the end of the dinner that I was talking about when we’re in this very nice French restaurant, I heard the maitre d’ say that we were Americans. Of course in French. There’s sort of three prices. One for the Americans, one for the British, and one for the rest. I knew they were going to stick us with the bill, I finally chalked out with a bit of French that I knew and said, “You know, I’m from Australi.” He went [French language].

Ross Greenwood: So the bill came back at the right price?

Jack Newton: The bill was reduced by about 20%, I think.

Ross Greenwood: Here’s the thing. Given your golfing career and I’ve done that. But then subsequently even the work you’ve done with the Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation, you obviously had to recover from an accident that was serious life threatening. The people would remember. Do you reckon the school set you up well or would have you been better off going out there and hitting golf balls from an earlier year do you reckon?

Jack Newton: I started quite young, and through caddying for my dad. Subsequently I left to play golf at Millfield and basically I was still playing cricket and rugby and playing a bit of soccer as well. In the end my grandfather said to me one day, “Listen, son. Don’t be good at most things like me and master of nothing.” He said, “You get on with the golf.”

Ross Greenwood: Okay. Given the fact that you say you didn’t necessarily put as much into the school as what you could of. You got two kids, Kristie and Clint and then you’ve have grand kids as well. In regards to what advice you would give those kids in schooling would it be different to what you might have practiced yourself?

Jack Newton: I just think I had a bug for sport in general. I did my best at the other stuff but I think these days you’ve pretty much got to have some sort of background in something or you’re going to struggle to get a decent job, aren’t you? But there’s other people who battle away and end up getting the result. I think it’s just gets back to what confidence you got in yourself, and I believed in my ability as a golfer. I had a pretty good time until I had the accident. I’ve had to go in other directions but it’s all worked out fine.

Ross Greenwood: I was going to tell you the Jack Newton Junior Golf Foundation does some brilliant work, and has since it was established in 1986, to introduce young kids to the game. But also then of course the work that its done through the charity events, the Jack Newton Classic been going for such a long time in Australia as well. It’ll be on in December this year. But all of that came about as a result of the accident that Jack suffered in 1983. Then as he says went on became a successful broadcaster, so many other things as well. Inducted as the general member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, which is incredible. And just to think, 50 years ago, pretty much today he was sitting down to do his English exam in 1967. I’ve got to say, Jack Newton, great to have you on the program tonight.

Jack Newton: Thanks, Ross. Enjoy the company, mate.

Ross Greenwood: Fantastic. Jack Newton, always good to have you on the program. But I just want your own recollections, did you go and do your HSC in 1967? I want your own recollections of those days and whether what you did might be quite different from what young people going through their HSC today might be going through as well. 131873 is the number.

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