By Brian O’Hare
WAYNE GILL was a little worried his golfing involvement and enjoyment might go downhill when he retired from full time work as a school teacher earlier this year.
But then he discovered the expanding and refreshing world of veteran golf.
“So just when you think retirement and you‘re getting older and you’re on the way down I find vets golf and its fantastic,” the 60 year old Charlestown Golf Club member said recently.
Gill had just won the final of the 2015 NSW Veteran Golfers Association Matchplay Championship conducted over four rounds in his home district of Newcastle in his debut appearance.
The four marker had been playing golf since he was a 15 year old and the new state title joined a somewhat fluky pro-am win in the early 80’s as career highlights.
“As a junior I grew up alongside Woolooware Golf Course in Sydney,” he said. “I spent too much time on a golf course and not enough time studying I think. I‘ve just continued to play since then. I love the game, love the challenge.”
The veterans matchplay championship this year was in its 17th edition after starting off in Coffs Harbour in the early 1990’s. It travelled down to the Illawarra for a number of years before finding a new home in Newcastle for the past three stagings.
This November it was played at the Australian top 20 rated Newcastle Golf Club, Belmont Golf Club, Waratah Golf Club and Charlestown.
Gill, who began playing in the Newcastle district’s rotating Monday vets events this year after leaving work, decided to give it a try. He joined some 100 men and lady over 55’s golfers who registered.
“I was encouraged to have a go by some blokes from last year and I just thought yeah OK,” he says. “I played a bit of match play as a junior and just as an ordinary pennant member but this format was really good. The elimination thing is pretty high pressure stuff.”
The event is played over four rounds in handicapped divisions with every entrant playing out the full tournament. Winners play winners in each division till there is an overall divisional winner while those losing a round are matched against another golfer with a similar result.
“I was a bit worried about [playing] four days out of five but I stood up alright,” Gill laughed. (Play is Monday to Friday with a rest day on Wednesday).
“I played pretty well at Belmont on Monday, just sort of really consistent play. I played pretty ordinary at Waratah on Tuesday; the wet conditions were very awkward.
“My best day was Thursday (at Newcastle GC), I played Warren Gorton (2014 runner-up) who is a really good player and it was a bit windy and I played really, really well to beat Warren. That was a good win.”
“Today I was a bit anxious today but so was my opponent Steve Pryor (Belmont GC) and we just battled it out. I putted really well all four days … putting was the main thing.”
Gill initially thought he would have a tough time getting past Gorton and defending champion Greg Kent, also a Charlestown member.
“I thought I was up against it really because those two guys, Greg and Warren, I thought might have fought out the final. It just goes to show it is a different game matchplay. It is a really good achievement for me, I’m really pleased.”
Also pleased was tournament director John Mason.
“I’m very happy with the way the week went. It was a little wet on Tuesday but every other day was fine and it has worked out great,” he said. “Hopefully next year will be bigger and better. There is a field of 128 and we should reach that no problems.”
Mason in particular was encouraging more ladies to register for 2016, when the event will be held a week earlier, from October 24 – 28th.
This will allow veteran golfers a week to travel down to South Australia to play the 2016 AVGU National Championship, which will be conducted in the Adelaide hills from November 6 – 11.
Gill, who will be doing quite a bit of holidaying and travelling in the meantime, was definitely planning on being home so he could defend his title.
“I think it is the right thing to do to defend it. I’ve enjoyed it so why not,” he said.2015 NSW Vets Matchplay Championship Photo Gallery
2015 NSWVGA Matchplay Championship Results
Wayne GILL defeated Belmont player Steve PRYOR 3 & 2.
M2 division Garry PEARCE was the winner over John WICKETT 2 & 1.
M3 Division Local Alan WOOLMER was the winner over local club captain David HARTNEY 5 & 4.
M4 Division Howlong player Max BIGNELL was the victor over Kevin CROWLEY 3 & 2.
M5 Division was Bob COULSON over Colin BEAN.
In the Ladies W 1 Division Yvonne BEAN from Shelly Beach was victorious over Carol HURST from Belmont at the 20th.
W2 Division was taken out by local Trish GEORGE over Sue OAKEY from Waratah.