“ACCOLADE TO A COUNTRY GOLFING ICON……..”

Betty Mulcahy’s a sprightly 94……..Dignified….Gracious……….

She says she doesn’t feel her age……….until the other day, that is, when she was outside doing some watering……”I’ve got a bit of a problem with my balance, and had a slight bingle….I’ll have to be a bit more careful in future,” she says.

Betty’s name would ring a bell with the older sporting fraternity in Wangaratta. It’s been a pleasure to sit down and have a yarn about her storied golfing career………..

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There aren’t too many locals who can say they honed their skills on the original Jubilee Golf Course……or, for that matter, played on the old Wangaratta Links, on which the H.P.Barr sporting complex is now located.

Betty says it revives memories when she drives down Edwards Street these days.

She won her first Wangaratta Championship there in 1955, and can recall the title being decided on the 15th hole, which ran alongside the rear of the newly-erected Rovers Clubrooms.

The ‘Chronicle’ described her play-off against Mae Buchanan as the ‘most open Final in Club history’.

“I used to get terribly nervous, and I warned Dad, who was my greatest fan: ‘Don’t you come anywhere near the course.’ …….I didn’t realise that he’d sneaked into the Rovers ground and watched the finish from one of the banks……”

At the end of the day’s gruelling 36 holes, she sunk a 30-footer to take out the Match-Play contest 5 and 3……………

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Betty’s dad, Vic Culph, was her sporting inspiration.

His legacy from the War was a ‘mangled’ leg – the result of a stray bullet that had passed through the limb, causing the toes to curl under his foot, leaving one leg shorter than the other.

“I don’t know how he walked sometimes,” she says.

Despite his handicap, Vic was a terrific competitor, and was still adept enough to play footy in Milawa’s 1945 Grand Final side. He took up Golf in his 40’s, and got down to a Handicap of around two.

“Because of his disability, Dad couldn’t get a lot of distance with his shots; but he was straight down the middle every time…….Get him anywhere near the Green and he was on…..And he was a good putter. He was a champion three or four times at the old Jubilee course……so that’s what got me started.”

Prior to this, Betty had been an outstanding junior swimmer. She took out three successive North-Eastern Schoolgirls titles, and was unbeaten in every event she contested at the Merriwa Park Pool.

She was 15 when she gave swimming away, and decided to concentrate on golf. She started to head out to Jubilee to play a few rounds with her Dad, who would always bet her threepence a hole…..It was ‘double or quits’ on the final hole. She never beat Vic, but she learned a valuable lesson about playing under pressure.

“ I loved Match-Play……That was what I was brought up on . Dad and I played it for so long, I regarded it as such good fun……”

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Betty won three Wangaratta Championships – 1955, 1960 and 1970 – and spent many years playing at Yarrawonga, where she picked up five Club titles.

“It’s challenging, Yarra…….Similar in style to the Melbourne courses – particularly around the bunkers”.

Probably her most memorable championship win at Yarrawonga was her last, against the formidable Lorna Zotti, who played off a handicap of 5, was the winner of 13 Cobram/Barooga titles, and hot favourite for the event.

They halved the first hole…Coming to the second, Mulcahy was short……Zotti chipped up close to the pin, but Betty bottled a 30-foot putt to win the hole.

They shared the next….and the next…….and on the long par-5 Mulcahy put her third shot into the bunker……Zotti was on the green with a chance of a birdie putt………but Mulcahy exploded out of the bunker to win the hole……

“We got to the 7th and I was lucky enough to bottle a putt for a two…..”

“I ended up having a good win…..3 and 2……” Betty recalls. “I wouldn’t have beaten her, I’m sure, if it was a stroke-event…….but the fact that it was Match-Play……..That was my specialty….”

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She almost got the opportunity to test herself out at one of the Metropolitan Clubs, when her husband Kevin, who was a Valuer, applied for – and got – a job in Melbourne.

“We started making preliminary plans for the move, and I applied to join Keysborough, which is one of the city’s famous sandbelt courses……….I liked the people there; they were very friendly, and the Club had a nice country-like atmosphere about it.”

“Then the official confirmation came through to Kevin about the job……We were sitting there that night, and he said: ‘I don’t think I could bloody-well live in Melbourne’……….I said: ‘What !……But you’ve already accepted it.’ “

“He replied: ‘I know…..I couldn’t live there.’ I said: ‘But I’ve already joined Keysborough ! ‘……‘ That’s alright…..you can keep up the Membership….’ “

“So we never left Wangaratta………I did play there a couple of times, and actually won a Trophy there………….”

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Ballan’s Rae Hicks was one of the many excellent golfers that Betty came across in a career which spanned 30-odd years.

They met in a Country Championship Quarter-Final at Victoria Golf Club; a match that the ‘Sun’ golfing scribe Kitty McEwan described as a ‘contest deserving of a Final’.

“It was torture in those days,” Betty says. “You had to play 18 holes in the morning to qualify, before lining up again in the afternoon. It was important to be fit…….and I wasn’t fit enough.”

“I hit the ball as if I had it on a string, but I couldn’t putt to save myself……….And Rae was sinking putts from everywhere. It was an interesting comparison of our games.”

Their match extended to the 23rd hole, before Hicks sunk the putt to advance to the Semi. Both players were out on their feet.

“Rae was about my age; played off 5……I really enjoyed playing her…….She was a lovely person……She said: ‘I wish you’d won it. I don’t think I could do another 18……’ But I felt exactly the same.“

Betty played Pennant for both Wangaratta and Yarrawonga, won four North-East Championships, was N.E Champion of Champions on five occasions, and shared a N.E Mixed title with Mike Murfitt.

She was hailed for one of those North-East title wins over Jean McCullough – another top-notcher of her era – at Jean’s home Club, Mount Beauty. Naturally, it’s a hilly course, and a real test of stamina – particularly when you’re obliged to play 36 holes for the day.

Jean held a commanding six-shot lead after the morning round.

“I was so tired at that stage, that I could have given it away. Thankfully, someone volunteered to caddy for me in the afternoon, which was a huge help.”

Coming to the final hole, a sizeable crowd had gathered to watch the event’s climax. Betty was told that if she had a par-3 she’d break the course record.

“I thought, goodness, I knew I was going well, but that surprised me…….Anyway, I hit a really good shot, just above the green, but fluffed the approach shot……So I’ve had a 4, to equal the course record, and win the championship.”

“But in those days, if you’d played 18 holes on the same day, it wasn’t an official record, because you were deemed to have had prior knowledge of the course.”

“The same thing happened at Beechworth…….I equalled the record but it wasn’t official……..”

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Betty’s mind flicks back to many of the fine golfers whom she opposed over the years….One of the best was Marian Dwyer, of Gippsland, who won several Country Championships.

“Gee, she was a good player……She was one of the stumbling-blocks we faced when the North-East team headed to Country Week……We never had enough good players to do all that well down there…..But we loved the experience of playing the Melbourne courses, against good competition……”

Other stars included Nan Armstrong (Benalla), Lorna Zotti, Joyce Broadbent (Shepparton), Lorna Kavanagh, Mary Odgers (Wangaratta), Di Ferguson (Albury), Barbara Sloan (Jubilee) and Elaine Cowan (Benalla).

Betty was reluctantly forced to retire from golf in her late-forties, whilst still in her prime. She’d developed a back injury which forced her to wear a brace……And a clot in her leg was causing all sorts of problems.

“I did my best to keep playing, but the last time I tried I lasted nine holes, and suffered for quite a while afterwards…….It just wasn’t worth it.”

She was also involved in Table Tennis whilst playing Golf, and won three Wangaratta singles championships.

Her enthusiasm for sport – all sport – certainly hasn’t waned..

She got a great kick out of watching her son Mark play cricket ( with Wangaratta and Whorouly ) and football with North Wangaratta.

“Mark inherited a fair slice of the determination that Dad handed down to me, I think……and so did his sons Christopher and Josh.”

In latter years she’s followed the Soccer fortunes of grandson Josh, who won the AWFA star Player Award in 2014, whilst playing as a mid-fielder with Albury United.

Betty Mulcahy’s eyes still light up when you start talking sport. She’s no different to the 15 year-old who stood on the tee at Jubilee and waged a battle with her father for three-pence a hole………..

‘THE UNSUNG HEROES……….’

For every sporting champion who revels in the fanfare and the roar of the crowd, there is the unsung hero.

If you delve deeply enough into his background you’ll uncover an uplifting story. He’s probably a battler who overcame the odds, achieved the ultimate, then returned to the humble surrounds from whence he came. Or perhaps he sought nothing more than the buzz of belonging to a team, and shied away from the glory that attached itself to others.

You may not have heard of Archie Fisher, Henry Johnson or ‘Scotty’ McDonald. This is their story……………….

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A timely piece of advice from a city doctor was the catalyst to launch Fisher’s dazzling sporting career.

Lying seriously ill in a Melbourne hospital for twelve months, he was shaken when told sternly by the medico: “If you don’t do something about your health, you’ll die here.”

Tiny Archie, his nerves in tatters, asked what he should do.IMG_3322

“Take up Golf, it’ll do you the world of good,” came the reply.

And so began a love affair with a sport which saw him become one of the finest Victorian golfers of his era…………

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Archie Fisher was born in 1897 at Bowman’s Forest, the son of a cricket enthusiast who managed to transmit his love of the game to his other sons, Clem, Clyde and Harry.

But Archie showed little aptitude for sport, apart from being quite fleet of foot, and having the occasional game of football.

In another contrast to his volatile brothers, who were notorious for their unyielding behaviour on the cricket field, Archie was a docile fellah, with a lovely nature. But within, lay a fiercely competitive spirit, which was to unveil itself on the golf course.

The family’s move to a farm at East Wangaratta created a mountain of work, with cows to be milked by hand and heavy manual labour to be undertaken.

It started to take its toll on Archie, who suffered two nervous breakdowns before golf arrived as the perfect form of therapy.

He stood just five foot five and weighed a little under nine stone, but, from the time he first struck a ball he showed great timing and touch.

Completely self-taught, he would travel to Melbourne to analyse the technique of the visiting American professionals, then practice for hours to implement them into his own game.

He was spectacularly successful, as he won the first of his 13 Wangaratta Club Championships in 1930 and repeated the dose in 1933, ‘37 to ‘46, and 1948. He then captured Jubilee crowns in 1950 and ‘51.

Strangely, he found the North-Eastern title elusive and was only able to get up once, in 1947.

A brilliant Country Week player, he captained North-East on 12 occasions. In this time the team was to capture the Leader Shield five times.

Archie was Victorian Country champion in 1937 and ‘38.

His short game was superb, and his form on the green moved one critic to label him the best putter he had seen.

He was certainly ‘hot’ in one competition event at Metropolitan, when he established a club record by having four twos in the one round.

Facing a 25-inch putt for the fourth, a bystander remarked: “I shouldn’t say this, Archie, but if you hole this shot you’ve got the record.”

“Don’t worry,” said Fisher. “I’ll put it in for sure.”IMG_3323

And he did.

An ice-cool temperament was a tremendous asset in helping Archie to more than 100 tournament victories. He won 12 Yarrawonga events ( called the Ryan Trophy), every Open Championship in the area, and owned a host of North-Eastern course records.

Fisher played off scratch for 22-odd years and proudly claimed five holes-in-one.

Just as his career was winding down in the early fifties, that of his son Gordon was cranking up.

Gordon’s nine Wangaratta Championships, the first at the age of 17, were captured between 1948 and 1961. But increasing work commitments forced his departure from the game.

Archie’s grand-daughter (Gordon’s daughter) Kaye O’Shea, has continued the family’s golfing tradition, recently clinching her her seventh Jubilee Club Championship.IMG_3332

Archie Fisher died in 1952, aged 55.

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Henry Johnson battled away for many years before finally making his name in rifle-shooting.

He had a fascination for the sport from an early age, but this had to be put on hold when he enlisted in the army and went away to serve in the Great War.

He returned with a badly damaged arm and had to change his action from the right to the left shoulder.IMG_3320

The adjustment required perseverance and determination and it was a tribute to Johnson that he was able to master his handicap.

The King’s ( or Queen’s ) Prize, is shooting’s time-honoured Blue Ribbon event, and attracts shooters from all over Australia. Brains, tenacity of purpose and self-reliance are crucial ingredients in a sometimes gruelling contest.

It was conducted over three stages in 1934, and Johnson was well back in the field after the first round.

Relatively unknown, and given nary a chance, he put up an outstanding performance over the last two ranges of 800 and 900 yards, by obtaining possibles and coming from the clouds to outpoint shooting’s elite.

The long-standing tradition of the King’s Prize is that the winner is swept up onto a chair and, to the accompaniment of a Pipe Band, saluted by the remainder of the marksmen.IMG_3319

Amidst the euphoria of his victory, Johnson assured his rivals: “The old hat I’m wearing will still fit after this is all over.”

“Although I was well behind on the second day, I knew there was still some chance, and when I needed a big score on the last range, it felt remarkably easy.”

Johnson competed for many years after his big win, even though he was a veteran when he took out the King’s Prize…….

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Gordon ‘Scotty’ McDonald, born in 1900, was an enthusiastic footballer and cricketer, whose on-field exploits were matched by his input as an administrator.

He made his debut with the Wangaratta Football Club in 1919 and quickly became one of the most popular players among Magpie supporters.

Perhaps it was his tiny stature ( he stood only 5’4” and was slightly-built ) or his courage ( they said he was too brave for his own good ). Maybe it was his demeanour which appealed to everyone.

But he was a brilliant rover who always gave of his best. He was outstanding in the ‘bloodbath’ Grand Final in his first year.

It was after this game that the mayor of the town criticised the premiers, Eldorado, for their viciousness and brutality.

“Is it football or bull-fighting ?” asked Cr. Edwards. “I am satisfied it is now a rotten sport.”

McDonald’s continued improvement saw him win selection in a combined Ovens and King side which played Carlton in 1921.

Predictably, the Blues won by 83 points, but their skipper Horrie Clover, rated McDonald, Martin Moloney and Eric Johnstone as good enough to play League football. “McDonald is a finished footballer and a fine rover,” he added.

But ‘Scotty’ rejected frequent approaches to go to Melbourne. He was content in his lifestyle as a grocer at the Co-Store (a job he was to hold until his death), and playing with Wangaratta.

The Pies moved back to the Ovens and Murray League in 1922 and McDonald again impressed Horrie Clover with a smart display for an O & M team which met Carlton at the Showgrounds.

During Wangaratta’s highs (they played in six straight Grand Finals and were undefeated champions in 1925 ) he played consistently.

When they became financially crippled after a couple of years of big spending he volunteered to become secretary and helped to steer the Club through its crisis.

He was playing secretary from 1927 to 1930. At the same time, after years as a keen, but not outstanding cricketer, he took over as WDCA secretary. He carried out this job with his usual thoroughness for seven years.

McDonald retired from football and cricket in the mid 30’s.

Old-timers never lost sight of the contribution he made on the field and in an official capacity to local sport.

He retired after 147 games and, many years later, would saunter down from his Grey Street home to watch his beloved ‘Pies, helping out with odd jobs on match-day. He loved yarning with old team-mates who could remember mosquito-sized ‘Scotty’ dodging, weaving and pumping pre use stab phases to grateful forwards……………

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FROM ‘ROYAL TARRA’ TO ROYAL BIRKDALE.

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……………

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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
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” 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.

And he has loved every minute of it.
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