SOUTH AUSTRALIAN golfer Ron Sternberg has swooped from the clouds to take the 2016 Australian Veteran Golfers Union (AVGU) National Championship in the Adelaide Hills.
The 59 year old was playing in his first national championship and was ecstatic at what was his biggest career win.
Sternberg, a member of Willunga Golf Club, south of Adelaide, may have had a little local advantage in the first two rounds of the 54 hole strokeplay event, having played a number of times at the two venues, Flagstaff Hill and Vines of Reynella, but had never played Blackwood Golf Club, scene of the final round on Friday.
Sternberg beat a quality field, including defending champion Tom Harold from Darwin, who was runner-up, and three time champion John Ciezki from Buninyong Golf Club in rural Victoria.
Due to a technical glitch with the publishing of the progressive scoring, none of the players knew who had won until it was officially announced at the Presentation Dinner at the Morphettville Racecourse function centre on Friday night.
“Wow! I can’t believe this,” Sternberg said as he walked to the stage to be awarded the champion’s trophy.
His win was obviously hugely popular with all the local golfers who knew him, and with all those he had played with during what was a great week of veteran golf.
Sternberg proved to be a real character … on and off the course.
Playing in the final round off a 10 handicap (he has been down to three in earlier days), Ron put in a tremendous performance to beat his more fancied low handicap rivals off the stick.
After accepting his trophy he was alternating between his hearty, infectious laugh, and “crying happy tears”.
“I love golf, I should play it a bit more seriously,” Ron said.
“That’s the funny thing about it. I love the game but I don’t go out and practice that much.”
“I just play every Saturday. Thursday after work, they guys get together and play an ambrose. We just throw up balls (to choose teams) there’s maybe half a dozen of us. We have a hit and then go to the [pub] and put a few horse bets on (laughs) and have a meal ….and a beer.”
“We do golf trips to the Riverland. There might be 16 of us who go and we have a good time and it’s arhhh…I can’t wait to tell them that I won this (laughs)…and I’m so excited (laughs).”
Ron, who started to play golf “seriously” as a 24 year old when he moved to Coober Pedy to work as a plumber, then opal miner, played for more than 20 years on the local sand scape and dirt golf club, before moving back to Adelaide and the luxury of a bit of grass on his golf courses.
He obviously doesn’t care so much about the course surfaces, as long as the company is good.
The final round was supposed to played as a seeded draw for the top eight players but in the end that didn’t happen, and was one of the reasons the result wasn’t known by participants till later.
“[Instead of the seeded draw] I played with another group of four players I had never played with before but had a wow of a time,” Ron said.
“And that’s the beauty about all of this, it brings people together. I must admit, it really does. And I guess this is one thing why they do it. Golf is something that does bring people together and to play for the major prize and to actually win it is a dream come true. I guess now do I go up to Queensland and defend my title [at the 2017 championship on the Gold Coast]. I guess the wife will say….’yeah let’s do it’ (laughs). My son is up just out of Brisbane so I guess she is going to be thoroughly shocked like me.”
Ron has won a South Australia vets state title previously when he first turned 55 but this was an obvious career highlight.
“This is the ultimate, in all the vets this is what it is, the national, it’s all the states and that’s…..I know I’m crying happy tears (strangled laugh) but it’s the best thing. It’s unreal, I sort of get so emotional about things like this. I still don’t believe it.”
2016 AVGU National Championship Photo Gallery
2016 Australian Veteran Golfers Union National Championship Results
Full results are now available from the SAVGA website here