“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………..

‘ROSS GREENWOOD – TELLING THE FINANCE STORY WITH STYLE….’

He has graphically described the ravages of a tsunami in Japan…..helped expose the hidden risks of Sydney’s recent Opal Tower debacle….given his prognostication of Donald Trump’s Trade War…..and was at the forefront with the all key players, as the Hayne Banking Royal Commission unfolded …………IMG_3973

He’s a national multi-media personality… a star of TV and radio…rapid-speaking…effervescent…engaging…A shrewd analyst who can unpick the latest financial calamity and describe its repercussions to you in the most concise layman terms…IMG_3971
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The row of gum-trees that hover over the 287m fairway of Wangaratta Golf Club’s par-three first hole could well have been bowing to welcome Ross Greenwood home last Saturday.

It was 7.30am… The late-summer sun was just poking through, and offering a glimpse of a brilliant day ahead, when he stepped up to the tee.

“It was my first game at Waldara for almost 30 years, I reckon,” Ross said. “I played with a couple of fellahs, Laurie and Alistair, who were good company, and the course was in fine nick. But I played terribly.”

He loves his golf and the challenges it presents: “ The better you get, the harder they mark you…” His handicap, which generally floats around the 10-mark, has snuck out to 12 at the moment.

This was a real hit-run visit to his old home town. He arrived late Friday, and celebrated his mum’s birthday on Saturday arvo. Then, after Sunday ‘brunch’ with his parents Don and Betty and siblings Lisa, Peta and Ian, he jumped in the car and headed back to Sydney to prepare for his usual appearance on Channel 9’s ‘Today’ show the following morning…

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Ross does everything at a hundred miles an hour – always has.

When he was a nipper, he’d yell a greeting to whoever was passing by the Greenwood’s Nolan Street house. Consequently, everyone was on familiar terms with the freckle-faced, rusty-haired kid with a ton of cheek.

“He had boundless energy,” recalls his mum Betty. “And when he’d flake out he’d sleep anywhere. I’d say to Don: ‘Look, the batteries are re-charging’. Then he’d wake up and be on the go again.”

Cricket, footy, baseball, athletics, volleyball, water and snow-skiing were all on the agenda in his time at the High School. And for good measure, he also represented Wangaratta in U.16 Basketball.

But, undoubtedly, through the influence of his dad Don, who’d played sub-district with Elsternwick and Preston (as well as State League Baseball), he began to ‘show a bit’ in cricket.

“I’ve got a vague memory of the only century I’ve ever made,” he recalls. “It was at Appin Park; I was 98, when one of the fielders in the deep let the ball run through his legs.”

I must say he’s under-stating himself a bit there. He was just 16, and opened for Rovers Seconds, helping them to a total of 2/216 off 27 overs. The Chronicle reported that: ‘Opener Ross Greenwood led the onslaught with a brilliant 103 not out, including six boundaries…’

He moved over to City Colts the next year, and played two seasons in the seniors, which included travelling back to play each week-end, after he’d moved to Melbourne…
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It was Ross’s fascination with Journalism which took him to the ‘big smoke’.

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Lion’s Club ‘Youth of the Year’ winners Gillian Hoysted and Ross Greenwood, are presented with their awards.

“Originally, I just intended to defer Uni for a year. But I received a telegram notifying me that I was one of 30 who’d be granted an interview for a spot as a copy-boy with Murdoch’s News Limited. Luckily, I got the job and started at the ‘Melbourne Truth’.”

“Mum gave me a lecture about the pitfalls of the big city…Grog…Drugs…Bad company…Bad women…But she forgot to mention Traffic Lights. I got cleaned up by a car at an intersection not long after I’d arrived, and was carted off to hospital…”

He settled in eventually, though, which was no doubt helped by playing cricket with Prahran, and later Richmond 4ths, and 50-odd games of footy with Amateur club, Melbourne High School Old Boys.

After nine months, he was granted a cadetship on ‘The Australian’ – another publication in the News Ltd ‘stable’.

One of his early jobs entailed covering the cricket. “I woke up with a big head one Sunday, and could hardly lift my head off the pillow. I decided to cover the game in front of the telly. That was okay, until Nine inexplicably switched over to another program. I had to bolt down to the MCG quick-smart.”

“I was being rotated around all of the different sections of the paper, until I arrived at the Finance Desk. Ian Perkin, who was the Finance Editor, gave me a timely piece of advice. He said: ‘Look, there’s a shortage of good finance writers. If you can make a go of it, there are plenty of opportunities’.”

“Luckily, I discovered I had a knack for doing it. I’d found my niche…”

It was an exciting time to be cutting your teeth in Finance Journalism. “By 1983 Keating had just floated the dollar …They were times of boom and bust…People needed to be informed.”

By now Ross had left the ‘Australian’ and was initially interviewed for a job with the Financial Review. Instead, he was lured to ‘Business Review Weekly’, and was mentored by its creator, Robert Gottliebsen.

“Robert was a brilliant journalist and, besides me, took people like David Koch, Adele Ferguson and Alan Koehler under his wing. To promote the magazine, he urged us to do bits and pieces of radio and TV.”

“I’d been doing regular segments on Ten’s  ‘Good Morning Australia’ with Kerri-Anne Kennerley, who’s still a good mate. When Mike Gibson was away, I would fill in as host.

“Gavin Disney, who’d produced ‘Hey, Hey, It’s Saturday’ set up a show on Channel 10 about this time, called ‘Healthy, Wealthy and Wise’. It starred, among others, Ian Hewitson, Tonia Todman and Peter Wherrett, and became a highly successful show. I was invited to be the show’s Finance guru.”

Ross became Editor of BRW in 1997 until, three years later, in one of those political situations which occur in the media game, was ‘shafted’ and found himself out of a job.

“Then a mate of mine rang up and said:  ‘I’m thinking of starting up the same sort of magazine in England. Can you tell me how to go about it.”

“So I headed over with Tanya, my wife, and our son Mitchell. We took a share in the proposed weekly digital magazine called ‘Shares’. I walked into a bare room in London, and within six weeks we’d put out the first issue. It boomed. We were originally going to stay three years, but 5 years later, were still there, with a staff of 40-50.”

Ross had done lots of radio and TV in London, with CNN, the BBC and Sky News and travelled around Europe in these roles.

So when he received a phone call from Channel 9’s John Alexander, pointing out that the network was thinking of replacing their Finance Editor, and offering him the job, it prompted a re-think of his future.

He says it was a big decision to leave the magazine that he’d helped build up: “But I was its public face. I had to walk away, to prove to them that it’d continue without me. Fortunately, my mate made it survive and grow. We sold the business about 5-6 years ago…”
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“We decided that we’d head home and give it a go for three years,” Ross says. “Fifteen years later it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere. It’s been a hell of a ride.”

Besides his role as Nine’s Finance Editor, which included regular stints on ‘Business Sunday’ and the ‘Today’ show, Ross filed reports for 60 Minutes. His assignments have taken him to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.IMG_3972

In 2006, he and Ellen Fanning replaced Jana Wendt as co-hosts of the ‘Sunday’ program, before Ray Martin took over less than two years later.

When 2GB decided to start up a Finance Show, Ross was the man they turned to. “It began as a half-hour segment; six months later it stretched to an hour; now it goes for two hours – from 6-8pm. It still relays through 3NE, from about 8pm, I think.”IMG_3969

The top-rating program, called ‘Money News’, concludes the Ross Greenwood working day, which starts with his ‘Money Minute’ segment on Nine’s ‘Today’ show. He also presents stories related to Finance on ‘Nine News’ most days.

It’s a 75-hour working week for the almost-60 year-old, and there’s no sign of him pulling up any time soon.

But he still finds time to roll the arm over.

When he moved to England, Ross played with ‘Surrey Cryptics’: “You’d play on these amazing village grounds, where cricket was first played  Or it might be a private ground….and anybody could turn up. Like one time the owner’s neighbour, Ringo Starr, lobbed for afternoon tea. Incredible, funny experiences .”

He joined Mosman, the home club of the great Allan Border and pace great Brett Lee, when he moved to Sydney.

“It was 83/84 when I joined Mosman. I had a good year, and had taken 43 wickets in the Fourths, going into the Finals that year. Our captain, Leigh Clapham, wouldn’t let me go up a grade. He was desperate to win that flag.”

“Our home ground is ‘Allan Border Oval’ and the club caters for Under 9’s to Over 50’s, plus Women’s grades. I play with the Masters ( Over 50’s) now. I like to think I’m a quickie, but unfortunately, I’m now barely a medium-pacer.”

Forty-four years after that maiden century at Appin Park, the boy from Nolan Street still retains a passion for the game……….

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Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, with Ross Greenwood at the Australian Open.

‘THE GOLF WHISPERER……..’

Cameron McCormick couldn’t bring himself to watch the closing stages of the 2015 U.S Masters.

Best, he thought, to play outside with his two kids, Bella and Callan, whilst his wife Somer – keeping an eye on the telly, relayed the drama that was unfolding at Augusta .

He needn’t have worried. Jordan Spieth, his protege, carded a final-round 70 , to complete a compelling all-the-way four-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. His score of 270 gave him a share of the tournament record with 1997 winner, Tiger Woods.

Two months later, he took out the U.S Open, becoming the youngest winner of the title in 92 years.

It was only the sixth time a player had won the Open and the Masters in the same year, and provided further evidence that the 21 year-old was the game’s budding superstar.

Spieth couldn’t have been more lavish in his endorsement of the Wangaratta-born McCormick.

“I have complete trust in anything he says,” he stated after his Masters triumph.

“He’s my swing coach, putting coach, short-game coach, mental coach, everything. I owe everything on the course to him. He’s a very special teacher…….”
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Cameron McCormick had an ideal football pedigree. His dad, Daryl, played more than 120 games on a wing for Wangaratta in the sixties and seventies, and represented the Ovens and Murray League. An uncle, Trevor, a hard-hitting defender, was also a star for the Pies.

And his mum Jenny had football blood coursing through her veins ; she’s one of the Peakes, of Chiltern.

Sometimes, however, your dreams can send you off on another tangent.

Cam had played footy in the lower grades at Camberwell Grammar, which he attended after the family moved to Melbourne in 1974. But, with a slight frame, and the realisation of his limited potential, he drifted towards golf.

He took to it like a duck to water. After leaving school and deferring for a year, he did some travelling, then returned home to help out in his dad’s construction business.

Not a bad life is it ?…….working in the morning and belting balls all afternoon, at Eastern Golf Club.

It was on these afternoon forays that a few caddying jobs lobbed up. On one of them he met a touring American pro, Kevin Youngblood, who planted the seed in his head about applying for a golf scholarship in his homeland.

Cam didn’t need to think twice about that. He was accepted into Community College in Kansas. In the next step of his education, he moved on to attend Uni and become part of the golf program at Texas Tech, in the north-western town of Lubbock.

Armed with a degree in International Business, he briefly moved back to Australia, but returned to the U.S to be with Somer, the girlfriend he had met in his final Uni semester. The intention was to pursue his golf career in earnest.

But there were obstacles ahead. He had made a couple of failed attempts to secure his Tour Card, and now strived in vain to make his mark on the mini-tour.

He recalled the day the penny dropped that he probably wasn’t going to make the grade as a Professional Golfer:

“Driving from town to town, and living out of my orange Volkswagen camper, I was at a loose end.  Reality hit me at the Nike Tour Qualifier in Alabama.”

“I played pretty good and shot one-under. The bloke I played with was the best ball-striker I’d ever played with. He shot 7-Under and missed by one.”

“I sat in my van, looked in the crystal ball and thought, I’ll never be able play this game for a living…….”

A year or so later, he was in a quandary.

“My career was going nowhere. Somer and I were living in New York City, where she was working. During the day I was working as a photographer’s assistant. At night, from 10 till 4am, I was passing out nightclub fliers on back streets.”

“Imagine the feeling, of people taking your fliers, then looking you in the eye as they screwed it up and threw it on the pavement………You never forget it.”
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Cam and Somer moved back to Texas in January 2000.He was tentatively making plans to put his International Business Degree into practice, when he was granted an interview for a job at the Lakes Golf Club, outside Dallas:

“The head pro, who interviewed me had gone to Texas Tech. The next thing I know I’m behind the pro-shop counter, get connected to the pro’s friend at Dallas Country Club, where I move, and soon have the opportunity to start teaching,” he recalled.

His working week involved 40 hours in the pro-shop and 25 hours of teaching. The course of his life had changed forever.

“I realised that teaching was something I could do. That started my all-consuming quest for knowledge. Everything I did back then, and everything I do now, is about bettering myself. “

Cam became a full-time teaching pro in 2003.

When he was starting off, he wrote letters to many of the best teachers in the U.S, asking if he could visit and observe them. He received invitations from 25 of them. The impression that he gained was that all of the teachers he sought advice from enjoyed helping him.

He emphasises that the role has changed over the years. “We used to be called ‘teachers’, but these days it’s ‘coach’, which involves Psychology, Practice, Statistical Analysis, Game-Plan, Physical-Conditioning, Nutrition…… some of these are outside my area of expertise, but I’m astute enough to know where to send a player to get them.”

He was the director of instruction at Brook Hollow Country Club, in Dallas, when he was introduced to the player who would become his most famous student.

He received a phone call from a fellow called Shawn Spieth, and the conversation went along these lines:  “I’ve got a son who’s a pretty good player. I’d like you to evaluate him for me.”

Cam had been teaching for five years when he met the confident 12 year-old. “He told me he’d shot a 63 a fortnight earlier. He also informed me that he wanted to win the Masters. He didn’t skip a beat; he looked me straight in the eye,” he said.

Spieth improved dramatically and, as he continued to progress, the pair developed a great relationship. Cam believed that his emphasis on competition struck a chord with the precocious talent. “Being together for that amount of time, you have another level of trust.”

Cam was voted the 2015 PGA Teacher of the Year, and has quite a stable of other young players under his charge. They include U.S Junior Amateur Champions Will Zalatoris and Noah Goodwin , 16 year-old star Karl Villips, Cole Hammer, who, as a 15 year-old, qualified for the U.S Open in 2015, U.S Amateur Four-Ball champion Ben Wong and Canadian Austin Connelly. A good percentage of the world’s top juniors seek his guidance.

He is now the Director of Instruction at Trinity Forest Golf Club, which opened in 2016, and also accepted an invitation to join the Golf Channel’s ‘Revolution Golf’ program this year.

Australia is never far from his thoughts, and he’s relishing the prospect of heading home later this month. He’ll be caddying for Jordan Spieth at the Australian Open in Rosebury, Sydney.

He’ll also take the opportunity to visit his dad, Daryl, who is recovering from a stroke, and he may be coaxed into having a round of golf at Waldara with his uncle, Neville, who’s one of the game’s stalwarts in this town.

Life never stands still these days, for the ‘Golf Whisperer’…………* With help from Golf Digest.

GOLF’S ENDURING CHAMPION

We last engaged in sporting combat about 47 years ago.

He was a promising leg-spin bowler. Opposed to an impetuous left-hand bat with a glaring weakness against the turning ball, he left me stranded, out of my crease. Ray Smart, the Wangaratta ‘keeper did the rest.

John Southwell has fond memories of his cricket career and, in particular, the ‘bag’ of wickets he picked up against Rovers that day. The reason it’s so clear in his mind is that it was his last WDCA game……

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In the interim he has, of course, become a legend of local golf.

He won his first Championship at Waldara in 1976 and is the reigning title-holder. That’s an incredible span to be at, or near, the top of your sport.

So what prompted him to dispense with the cricket bat, in favour of a set of golf clubs ?

“Well, Dad was a good cricketer in his day and was mates with Max Bussell, who talked my brother Ray and I, into playing with Wangaratta. But Mum and Dad were also mad-keen golfers and we spent a lot of time out at Waldara ,” John recalls.

“Mum said :’You’d better make a choice between the two’. It was a no-brainer. Golf won out.”

His parents had teed up a few lessons with Brian Simpson, the Head Pro at Yarrawonga (and now of Victoria Golf Club), who had originally spotted John piercing the fairway with one of his mum’s irons.

“I had about five lessons with Brian, who’s a fantastic teacher. He worked on some aspects of my game that have stood me in good stead over the years – like the ‘Get out of trouble’ shots and the importance of a good short-game.”

“At the end of my final lesson he asked me what I intended to do with my life. I told him it had always been my ambition to become a pro.”

He said : “Do you think you can become a Top 10 player.” “I doubt it,” I replied. Brian’s response was as blunt as a sledge-hammer : “Well, forget it, there’s no money in it.”

So instead, John left school and started a builder’s apprenticeship with Southwell Constructions, the business his dad had originally begun with Les Anderson.

It was hard yakka, with long hours, and he doesn’t really have fond memories of his early days in the building caper.

But at least he had his golf, even though he didn’t spend a lot of time on the practice fairways and greens .

“I’ve never been big on getting out on the course during the week,” he said. “Instead, I had a full-length mirror and I’d devote about 10 hours a week  to making sure everything was comfortable . Setting up is critical. Your swing is automatic. If you’re swinging well you don’t need to change anything.”

John was 17 when he finished third in the Club Championship. Two years later, he was part of the Waldara team which won the Club’s first Division 1 pennant for 22 years.

He was 25 – and had already won a North-East title and 5 Open tournaments – before he broke through to win his first Wang championship. Once the ‘floodgates’ opened, however, he made the event his own, winning the next seven straight, and, even more emphatically, 12 in 14 years.

Those who have seen him at close quarters over the years testify to his thirst for the contest.

“He loves to compete. A social round of golf doesn’t have the same appeal to him,” they say. That probably explains why John travelled to tournaments throughout Victoria and southern New South Wales during his younger days.

When I quiz him on how many Open amateur events he won, he admits : “About 65.”

His game revolves around good driving and Iron-play and reliable putting. That, and stringent preparation. It stood him in good stead during 23 years of Country Week golf, the last 13 of which he was North-East’s captain.

John reckons he got his biggest thrill in the sport when he led North-East to the Age Shield in 1986. They’d been trying to win it for 19 years and were pitted against a strong West Gippsland team.

“It had been really tight all day and it eventually boiled down to my game. I came out on top on the 19th. To be captain and to win for the team – there could be no greater honour. Then we went on to win it for the next two years. It was a good time to retire from Country Week,” he said.

The Life Membership he received from the NEDGA at about this time, was recognition of his contribution to the Association.

About a decade earlier, John had received a phone call ‘out of the blue’ from someone associated with Northern Golf Club. “Would he be interested in playing State Pennant for them ?”, they pondered.

It was, I suggested, similar to a country footballer being drafted, sight unseen.

Northern had just been promoted to Division 1 and were busy recruiting. He was invited down for a trial and, having never seen the course, went around in 4-under. He was promptly installed as their No.1.

“It was a great experience, playing against the state’s outstanding amateurs, on some of the world’s best courses, every week. An opportunity to test yourself against the best,” he recalls.

His performances earned him selection in the state Amateur squad.

“The first two years were great, but in the third, it became a real grind. I was heading to Melbourne on a Friday night, returning late Sunday. In the end it got too much.”

 

John’s most prestigious win came in 1983, when he took out the 36-hole Victorian Country Championship, at Kingston Heath.

With the wind blowing a gale, he adapted to the conditions, kept the ball low and put together a reasonable score, while the big names behind him imploded. This led to his selection in the Vic.Country team which played the touring New Zealanders at Cobram.

By now his enthusiasm for golf had begun to wane, even though he had recently won another Club Championship and clinched his fourth North-East title.

So he took up cycling at the age of 40. He loved it, but wasn’t just content to go out for a leisurely ride. Veteran Dave Wohlers soon coaxed him into road-racing. Again, his competitive instinct took over.

But in the late nineties, after a nine-year hiatus, John succumbed to the persistence of his young next-door neighbor Xavier Palamaczuk , who convinced him that, if he came on board, Waldara would be a ‘monty’ to win another Division 1 Pennant.

That they did. In a strange quirk, though, it was Xavier who foiled his bid for another Club championship by beating him in the play-off, thanks in part to a course record round of 65.

Four years later John chalked up his 13th title when he defeated rising star Andrew Kelly in an epic 36-hole match-play battle.

Again he packed his trusty clubs away and jumped back on the bike for exercise, although arthritis in the neck was giving him hell.

Southwell Constructions, which he had taken over in 1986, had kept him ultra-busy, but regulations in the building industry were stiffening up and, ultimately, John didn’t feel like learning a new set of skills. He decided, instead, to get out whilst he was on top and retired in 2007.

It allowed him to concentrate fully on his passion of Woodwork.

If you’re lucky enough to see the magnificent pieces that he’s crafted, you’ll comprehend why some of them can take up to 5 months to complete.

They’re meticulous in their detail and I surmised that he undoubtedly adopts the same precision to his golf.

John made his second golfing ‘renaissance’ about three years ago, and says he’s enjoying the game as much as he ever has. He has won the last two Club championships (making it 15 in total) and is heavily involved administratively.

He has held the Board portfolio of Director of Greens at Waldara for 3 years and is the Chairperson of the proposed new Clubhouse development and new Course construction.

And his golf ? “I’m playing for the fun of it, striking the ball okay, and still playing off scratch. And I’m probably putting better now than in the old days. Why retire ? ” Wangaratta’s golfing legend says.FullSizeRender (1)FullSizeRender