By Brian O’Hare
JOHN CIEZKI made it an unprecedented three straight victories at the 2014 Australian Veteran Golfers Union (AVGU) National Championships in WA but the win was not without its drama.
Ciezki began the third and final round at the top rated Bunbury Golf Club with a seemingly comfortable eight shot lead over fellow Victorian Ken McNamara but a double bogey on the very first hole really got the nerves jingling.
After the fifth hole the Buninyong Golf Club member had dropped three more shots and the chasing pack was just four behind.
With wins in his first national vets championship appearance in 2012 on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria and at Canberra in 2013 the weight of expectation of an “historic” three-peat were taking their toll.
“It was very tough,” the 62 year old said later. “I was going out of my bloody mind.”
Ciezki had turned up at his first championship as a last minute replacement, mostly looking for a week off work, a few beers and a good time. He was surprised to win and thought maybe he could have a follow up victory in Canberra.
He got a bit more serious, did a bit more practice, and worked on his swing.
With two wins under the belt the dream became to be the first to win the national vets championship three times. The 54 hole strokeplay championship is an annual event for over 55’s that rotates around the states and territories.
The year long wait for the third championship no doubt put the stress levels up a bit, particularly when he suffered some back issues that put him out of golf for a month, followed by another month with an inner ear imbalance.
“I came into this tournament underdone by a long way, underdone badly,” Ciezki said. “So to have a win is really, really special.”
With everyone at home wanting him to win, the pressure was really on,
“I looked at the trophy last year and saw no one had ever won three in a row,” he said.
Ciezki had a good opening round at the Capel Golf Club to lead the tournament after 18 holes and a steady second round at the Sanctuary Golf Resort, but was struggling to keep it straight off the tee.
A wayward tee shot on the par three opening hole at Bunbury course didn’t help.
“The double bogey on the first hole really threw me sideways a bit, I didn’t expect that,” he said.
Fortunately he had the assistance and wise counsel of a maybe not so experienced caddie – but very experienced Ciezki handler – in wife Annette.
‘It was interesting,” Annette admitted . “He had to settle down a bit, he was pretty nervous to start with and Ken pushed him pretty hard. So he just had to stop and think and play the course and not anyone else. Just play like Pennants … every shot counts and every hole counts.”
A crucial putt for birdie on the tenth was a big turning point and Ciezki ended up regaining his eight stroke lead by the close. McNamara, from the National Golf Club, was runner-up and Brendan Curtin from the Joondalup CC in WA third.
“I give credit to the people who played against me because they really pushed the living daylights out of me,” Cieski said.
Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely there will be an attempt at a fourth straight title when the championship rolls on to Darwin in August 2015.
“It won’t be four in a row because I won’t be in Darwin. My wife has no long service leave left so she’s got to stay at work for a couple of years to accrue some leave so we won’t be going to Darwin but we’ll probably be in the Adelaide hills the following year.”
“It’s sad; it’s the end of the run. It is a great thing to win. It’s a mammoth thing to win three I think. To win more than three at any given time would be …. gee, I really can’t imagine it.”
The 2014 version of the event, conducted in the south west of WA for the first time, was a huge success. The week-long event, played in three grades at the three courses previously mentioned plus Busselton Golf Club, attracted some 384 golfers and 90 non playing partners from around the country. Ladies played a Stableford competition at the four courses.
A gala presentation dinner was held after the final round on Friday evening at the Sanctuary Resort, with some 500 participants and guests enjoying some fine food, some of the renowned local wins, entertainment and a night of prizegiving.
Three long years of work by Tournament Director Mike Elliott and the committee from the Country Veteran Golfers Association of WA showed in an event that went off basically without a hitch.
It was a massive credit to Mike, his wife Penny – who was responsible for much of the decoration of a new extension at the Santuary Resort used for the first time for the Presentation dinner – the committee, the many volunteers and all those who took part.
Major sponsors included Regis Aged Care, Remax Lighthouse Realty, the South West Development Commission, Sanctuary Golf Resort and Apia.2014 AVGU National Championship Results 2014 AVGU National Championships Photo Gallery Have your say on the Vets Championships in the new ASG Forum