Columnist Darryl Hearsch talks with Australia’s undisputed top senior amateur golfer, Greg Rhodes. The lanky Victorian is the reigning Australian Senior Amateur Champion, has won numerous national and state events, and currently leads the senior order of merit, a position he has held on and off for many, many weeks.
Rhodes, who has also represented Australian in a number of team events, covers a number of interesting topics, including his key swing thought, best golfing tip, dream fourball, favourite course, advice for older golfers, and much more.
- Tell us about before age 55. Work, golf, other sports etc.
Sports: Volleyball, Triathlon, football including VFL with Richmond (Reserves) in 1980
Community: Current Mildura Life Saving Club for over 20 years, Mildura School Lands Trust Chair, President of the Murray Darling Golf Association and AFL Central Umpire in the Sunraysia league. Previous community positions include; District Junior Golf Development, and President Sunraysia Volleyball.
Work: I have been in the Education Department since 1981 as a teacher and worked at Pakenham High, Irymple Secondary and Merbein P-10 College where I am currently an Assistant Principal.
- Best golfer you have played with?
At Country Week I was able to play against Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby and Marc Leishman and lots of other State players in their amateur careers. Marc Leishman in my opinion was the most skilful. I did play at Metropolitan Golf Club in 1980 with Sir Garfield Sobers. He played left handed and had a low handicap both left and right handed. That was a real treat because I made me realise how competitive he was a professional sportsperson.
- Best golfer you have seen?
I have spectated at some major Australian Golf events including the President Cup. Possibly enjoyed watching the stars warm up and practice at close quarters.
- Your best moment in senior golf?
There have been a few. Finding out there were a number of state and national senior events to contest with players of your age and ability, and that you can represent your state and country at senior level. Another one was being selected in the Sanctuary Cove trophy team which is played against the Kiwi’s, plus being selected in the ADF and Asia Pacific teams to represent Australia. I have been fortunate to have some memorable moments in the senior ranks. Perhaps some of the special ones were winning my first state title the NSW Seniors at Orange, then winning the Australian Seniors at Manly while being looked after by Chris Gordon and his family. The best team moment was being part of the Winning Sanctuary Cove Trophy team in 2017. The matches were extremely close and we were watching the final match on the final hole where Kym Olsen knocked his approach close to secure the victory.
- What are your golfing aims for 2018 and beyond?
I am trying to fit seven Australian ranking events into my work schedule as I have set a target to try to play in all State Senior Championships over the next two years. Another goal is to remain high enough on the senior rankings so I might have the opportunity to represent Victoria and Australia in the next few years.
- Your dream fourball?
I would love to play with Jack Nicklaus, Lydia Ko, myself and a mate around the Augusta National course. It would be great to talk with Jack reflecting on his golfing achievements, other achievements and thought processes, and to find out what makes Lydia such a great golfer and seemingly nice person. I would take a mate so we could share the fantastic experience. I would love to play at Augusta as this has been a lifelong ambition, just to go there.
- Do you have one key swing thought?
I try not to get too mechanical with my swing. The key to good golf for me is making sure I swing within myself, which translates to trying to ensure a smooth transition from the backswing to the downswing on all my shots, including putts.
- Favourite course and the hardest course in Australia?
It is hard for me to comment on my favourite course as I have probably played far less than most of the people reading this. From the courses I have played, the best in Melbourne are located on the Sandbelt, particularly Kingston Heath and Metropolitan. The National Old course on the peninsula is also pretty spectacular. In Adelaide Kooyonga is a great course. Away from the city there are lots of great courses that match up pretty well despite a lack of finances and workers that the top city clubs have. In my home town of Mildura, Coomealla, and the two city courses of Mildura and Riverside are good tests of golf and are always in good condition.
- The length young players hit the ball – your thoughts.
Technology is a fantastic thing. Young golfers are fit and strong, have modern swings and can hit huge distances. The technology is also great for older players, particularly iron technology which enables us to hit similar iron distances to the young amateurs.
- Best golfing tip you have been given.
It came in the form of a question from my year 10 Art teacher who was also a very good golfer.
- “What is the most important shot you need to play in a game of golf?”
- I thought about putting, wedge play and chipping, driving, …….. and I think in settled on putting because I thought that is the club we use the most. The answer given to me was: “Your next shot, but only when you get to it, not while walking up the fairway.”
- How often do you practice? Do you follow a set routine?
Practice for me varies with the seasons. In summer with lots of light after work I like to get out and play 9 holes in an hour while doing a little jogging between shots. Sometimes to the practice fairway for 20 minutes to hit 15 to 20 short irons.
In winter, I sometimes go to the driving range and to hit between 20 to 40 balls. I sometimes practice my putting on the carpet in the lounge room while watching sports on TV.
- What is your favourite club?
I have a couple of hybrid clubs that I go to when I need to hit a fairway, and I love my 60 degree wedge that I have had to recently retire as the face has worn.
- Your thoughts on the new Rules of Golf.
The principle behind them is to speed up play. I agree entirely with this principle and most of the changes. If we can get people to get round a game of golf in three and a half to four hours that would be good for everyone. The 3 minute search rule time concerns me, because in my experience a ball is often found late in a search which can save time by not having to go back to hit a second ball.
- Best course you have played overseas?
Haven’t played many overseas courses. The few I have played, the best would be Christchurch.
- Your opinion on course setup for seniors.
Courses should be set up with the following considerations:
Conditions: green firmness, wind, green speed, length of holes and slopes on greens. Pin positions should be fair. If you have players leaving your course talking about silly pin positions, I think you are having people leaving with the wrong message. Tee positions should reflect the distance most senior golfers can hit the ball so that there is still room for strategy and risk/reward.
- How many holes-in-one?
I have scored hole-in-ones. 3rd hole at Coomealla which is a 210m par 3, the 7th at Coomealla a 145m hole and the other one was the 7th hole at Robinvale which is a 160m par 3.
- You seem to be getting better with age. Any secrets?
My philosophy is to fit more into the day and to enjoy playing golf. (Have fun) while respecting your playing partners. I also often say “ there is no point getting older if you don’t get smarter’.
- Have you been to the Masters or the British Open?
My main golf ambition for the past 30 years is to visit the Augusta National Course during Masters week. I am hoping I will get this to happen with my wife and a few mates and their wives at sometime in the near future. The British Open I also hope to visit sometime.