By Mark Hayes.
If you buy the theory that experience counts for plenty in golf, Geoff Nicholas is your proof.
The evergreen 59-year-old added yet another title to his enormous resume, brushing aside his younger rivals to win the recent Victorian Inclusive Championship at magnificent Sanctuary Lakes.
The veteran Sydneysider began the final round at the Point Cook course one shot adrift of defending champion Cameron Pollard and equal with Lochie Smith in the lead group.
Smith birdied the first and Nicholas took a bogey, leaving him two behind both of the Sawtell Golf Club tyros.
But Nicholas, showing the temperament that took him to 12 consecutive British and US Amputee Open titles from 1990, remained unfazed.
Slowly but surely, the Sydneysider turned the tables and cracked his young mates in the process.
Nicholas rolled in a 6m birdie on the short par-four third, another from close range on the sixth and then a bomb from 9m on the eighth to take the lead for the first time.
By that time Smith had endured two triple-bogeys and Pollard made his first mistake on the ninth, with his double-bogey giving Nicholas a handy buffer through the turn.
A couple of Nicholas bogeys midway through the back nine kept it tight, but four pars to close saw off his fellow New South Welshmen, winning by five over Pollard with Australian Amputee Open champ Shane Luke a further two shots back in third.
“I was steady after the first, nothing spectacular just binned a couple of putts,” the modest Nicholas said of his even-par 72.
“It’s the first time I’ve done that in a while, in fact I haven’t really been playing too much with how busy work is (at his Barton Park driving range in inner Sydney) and that we haven’t had too many tournaments with Covid.
“And I turn 60 this year … in July … so it was good playing with the two young guys to still compete with them, even if they hit it 80 yards past me.
“It just goes to show you that it’s the short game where you can score, so I can still compete.”
The effervescent Pollard was full value in his title defence, but pushing to catch Nicholas on the long 16th, he came unglued with a double-bogey that ended his chances.
Luke had tongues wagging early in his round.
The Bankstown Golf Club scratch marker had four birdies in his opening five holes and missed a short putt on the other hole.
He cooled off, but went back into red numbers with his fifth birdie on the 14th.
But just as Luke got within range of a remarkable comeback, he took a quadruple-bogey nine up the 16th after his drive kicked into a bunker and “it went downhill from there”.
In fact, Luke, who recently won his tenth national crown, was five over in his opening three holes on day one and again on the closing three holes today.
“You don’t win too many doing that sort of stuff,” he said with a wry grin.
Nicholas’ effort was enough to secure him the nett trophy, too, toppling Links Hope Island golfer Jamie Turner by two strokes.
Kath Tanner, representing The Links Shell Cove, played her final five holes one better than her handicap today and won by that very margin – 68 to 67 – in the stableford event over the RACV Country Club’s Rod Paykel.
** Mark Hayes is from Golf Australia