By Brian O’Hare (This feature story also appears in the January edition of Inside Golf)
BRIAN SAMS didn’t get into all that much trouble when as a youngster he nicked his father’s golf clubs from the garage and took them to a nearby park.
It was the then 13 year old’s first foray into golfing and even when several of dad’s prized golf balls went missing in the process it didn’t cause the parental blood to boil too fiercely.
“He decided he would give me a couple of old clubs for Christmas, “the now 69 year old says. “He said I better get you some for yourself”
The fact that some 56 years later Sams can instantly reel off that the Christmas stocking that year contained “a 3, 5, 7 iron, a wood and a putter” gives testament to the importance golf has played in his life.
Sams’ golfing career was in the spotlight recently when he was the proud overall winner of the 2018 Australian Veteran Golfers Union (AVGU) National Championship conducted at Port Stephens on the NSW Hunter coast.
The championship, for men and women golfers aged 55 and over, attracted some 565 players from across the country to the week-long celebration of competitive golf and socialising.
The annual AVGU National Championship has been held since 1990 and each year rotates around the states and territories to new venues. The 2019 incarnation will be held in Launceston, Tasmania, in mid November.
The 2018 edition was played at what Sams described as “three very solid golf courses’ in Nelson Bay Golf Club, Horizons, and the top 100 rated Pacific Dunes, where he is currently a member.
Sams spoke so glowingly about Pacific Dunes we were surprised when we discovered he had only been a member there for 18 months. But then he has obvious affection for all things golf and his own golfing memories: being given Ben Hogan’s book Power Golf as a teenager (“I still have it”) caddying at his local club Ryde Parramatta until he joined with a 10 handicap at 16, playing every Monday after school, moving to Port Maquarie in his 20’s to be a teacher, the five hour weekend road trips to Sydney to play in amateur events.
If there is a regret it is that the exhaustive travel that would have been required meant he really couldn’t play the high level pennants in Sydney that could have seen him selected for state or national teams. He was a member at Port Macquarie for 45 years.
“So my real competitive golf came when I retired and started to play seniors golf and that’s where I have won a few things,” Sams says.
Those few things include the 2014 Australian Senior Matchplay Championship and multiple state senior amateur titles (NSW twice, Victorian twice, West Australian twice, Queensland twice, Northern Territory once.) He also played in a number of state and national senior amateur representative teams.
Sams also won the 2010 AVGU National Championship when it was based in Port Macquarie around his then home club but wasn’t all that confident coming into this year’s event.
“My game hasn’t been all that flash in recent years. As I said I have had periods of six months duration out of the game because of one thing and another [being hit by a car on his bicycle, rotator cuff surgery, a bowel tumour]”, he says.
He was also a 69 year old competing against 55 year olds but when it came to the crunch had an 8 stroke victory in the overall 54 hole Strokeplay Championship.
Sams accepted his second national vets trophy before a crowd of some 700 players, non playing partners, and guests at the Friday evening presentation evening.
The overall Ladies Stroke Champion was Helen Pascoe from Buninyong Golf Club in Victoria and there were many other prize winners in various grades and categories.
Port Stephens tournament director Dave Flatt thanked the hundreds of hard working volunteers who had assisted in seeing such a large event unfold virtually seamlessly over the four courses involved, and also acknowledged the dedication of his committee, many of whom had been involved in planning since 2014.
2019 Vets National Championship in Tasmania
Rick Sindorffs, tournament director of the upcoming Launceston championship, invited all to what should be another great week of veteran golf on the Apple Isle. The
November 10 – 15 event will be centred around Mowbray, Launceston, Riverside and Country Club Tasmania courses. (Tournament details here)