The cosy hamlet of Tarrawingee is not much more than a stone’s throw from Wangaratta.
Its landmark , the historic Plough Inn Hotel, has long been the gathering-point for the locals to let their hair down.
They love their sporting teams and sportsmen in Tarra and celebrate their successes with gusto.
They proudly testify that Michael Nolan, the legendary ‘Galloping Gasometer’ went from tubby fill-in player with the O & K Bulldogs, to controlling the ruck duels in North Melbourne’s first VFL premiership victory in 1975.
And they remind you that another youngster, Bradley Lamb, used to belt a golf ball around the sand-scrape course and, in a matter of a few years, was representing Australia in the Eisenhower Cup, golf’s world amateur teams championship……………
Brad only had to stroll a matter of 800 metres to reach the centre-piece of Tarra sport, the Recreation Reserve. It was the home of the football, cricket, tennis, netball and golf clubs.
And, long before he arrived on the scene, crowds from around the state would flock in their thousands to watch high-class Motor Racing events on a track which has now disappeared from view .
He was 13 or 14, he reckons, when he lined up in the Third XVIII football side. He was handy enough, but it was golf that captivated him. He would spend hours on the fairways, which were lovingly maintained by club volunteers, including his old man, Spence.
“It must be the tightest little course in Australia “, Brad recalled last week. “They’ve done a great job to bring it up to the standard it is now. It’s really quite picturesque and challenging.”
A school-teacher and golf-nut, Paul Bruce, had started up clinics involving the kids of the district and sensed that young Lamb, possessed the requisites of a player of rare quality. He gave the lad every encouragement.
Brad won several senior tournaments in the area and at different times was a member at Myrtleford, Corowa and Jubilee, as well as his home club.
He was Jubilee’s number 1 pennant player and title-holder, but his big break came when he won the Under 18 boy’s championship at Royal Melbourne in 1993.
“They’d probably never heard of this bogan, long-haired kid from the bush, but winning that event secured my inclusion in the junior State squad and I was on people’s radar. Ultimately it resulted in a 2-year scholarship at the A.I.S, ” Brad said.
It also triggered an approach from a Woodlands Golf Club scout and an invitation to move to Melbourne and play senior pennant.
He was now pitted against some of golf’s elite talent.
There was no doubt that he was making his mark. A win in the 1996 NSW Amateur championship and the 1999 South Australian Invitational was proof of that.
But Brad’s golden year came in 2000.
In the most significant win of his career to date, he survived a freak thunderstorm and a converging field to win the Victorian Open title at Cranbourne. It had been an extraordinary final day, as Adam Scott, the overnight leader, dropped three shots on the last two holes to surrender the lead.
Brad came from the clouds with a final-round of 68 to force a sudden-death play-off against Jens Nilsson. The visiting Swede couldn’t match his opponent’s par after he drove into the trees. The title belonged to the boy from Tarra.
His burning ambition had been to win a berth in Australia’s Eisenhower Cup team and he was as good as there after he clinched the Australian Amateur crown in Hobart.
The four-man national team of Lamb, Aaron Baddeley, Scott Gardiner, and Andrew Webster played at top courses, in front of massive German galleries and finished third, behind the USA and Great Britain/Ireland in the plum amateur event.
Brad had achieved everything he had set out to do in lilywhite ranks and decided that it was time to take the plunge and turn professional.
“I wanted to play against the best and earn a living”, he said.
But it wasn’t easy and he encountered some obstacles in earning his Tour card, eventually travelling to Asia and qualifying for a demanding tour which is rated by some as probably the ‘most difficult and frustrating of all’.
Additionally, he gained some invitations to Australian events. Former top pro Mike Clayton, who acted as his adviser upon his entry to professional ranks, assessed Brad’s prospects:
“He will, no doubt, be a good player. How good depends a little on good fortune and a lot on how talented he really is”.
He and his partner Justine took the plunge and settled in America for four years. After also gaining some exemptions to play in Japan, he then returned home and qualified for the Australasian Tour.
His rookie season on the Nationwide Tour came in 2008 and provided a highlight when he played in his first Major, the British Open at Royal Birkdale.
I was keen to find out how he handled the pressure of playing on the Tour. He said that pro golf was completely different to plying your trade in amateur ranks
” I was fortunate to have had good support, both as an amateur and pro. So I never teed up thinking that I needed to perform to pay the mortgage or that I had to win the put food on the table. I was never under that sort of pressure.”
“I had a Card of some sort for 14 years and the Tour provided me with plenty of great memories. The thing that let me down as a pro was my putting. If I had an average round it was because I performed poorly on the greens. The blokes who make the good dough are the good putters.”
“It’s a terrific game, golf, but it teases you. No matter how many years you play and how many deficiencies you have in your game, you always come back thinking you can get on top of them”.
Brad has been the teaching pro. at Barwon Valley Golf Club/Driving Range for six years and it suits him perfectly. “It’s an excellent club and I’ve got a good client base. My coaching sessions are by appointment, so if I want to play an event at any time, it enables me to get away.”
Not that he’ll be needing to in the immediate future, because he’s just had a wrist operation and that will keep him out of action for a while.
Brad Lamb is one of those fortunate people who has been able to turn his talent in his chosen sport into his profession.