DICK FARRANT was 15 when he first picked up a golf club and now some 56 years later he still doesn’t mind going out and “giving it a whack”, as he says.
Dick has tasted some personal success in his long golfing career, getting down to a very respectable seven on a few occasions and winning the odd club or country tournament here and there.
But these days Dick is much more focussed on what he can contribute to golf and the social and camaraderie aspects of the game rather than any personal playing satisfaction he may get out of it.
Dick is the new president of the NSW Veteran Golfers Association (NSWVGA), an organisation that helps offer veteran golfers, that is those aged 55 and over, with an unparalleled smorgasbord of golf tournament and competition opportunities across the state.
The NSWVGA currently oversees some 48 “Week of Golf” tournaments from the top to the bottom of NSW and way out west to Broken Hill.
As much as possible, the tournaments are organised in geographic loops so competitors can be on the road for weeks at a time just going from vet event to vet event.
There are also five state championships, including a stroke and a matchplay event, and next year NSW will host the National Veteran Golfer Championship based around Port Macquarie.
In addition, affiliated veteran groups run regular weekly or monthly competitions at club level.
All those golfing opportunities are of course great for the many older golfers that take advantage of them, but the regional tournaments can also be a huge boost to local economies when a couple of hundred golfers roll into a country town for a week or so.
…just putting back some of what the game has given me
All that golf also means a whole lot of organisational and administrative work and it is people such as Dick Farrant and those like him who make it all possible.
“To my mind I am just putting back some of what the game has given to me,” Dick says.
Exactly how much that “bit of time” is Dick finds hard to quantify, but his wife Marie commented some time after he retired that he seemed to be busier with his golf administration duties than he had been at work.
Dick doesn’t necessarily agree with that but he has certainly at times piled on the responsibilities, for instance for nine years he was jointly holding down the very time demanding roles of President of Kiama Golf Club and Secretary of the NSWVGA.
A former high school mathematics teacher, Dick has been involved in volunteer golf administration for some 43 years.
“I was elected to the position of secretary of Wauchope Golf Club in 1966 and apart from four separate (single) years since then the administrative association has continued,” Dick says.
“At Wauchope I was on the golf committee for 10 years and in that time I covered position including secretary, publicity officer, handicapper, match committee and for the last two years I was vice president.”
“Then I received a promotion in my job and in 1977 took up the position of head teacher mathematics at Bowral High School, and within a year I was elected to the board of directors at Bowral Country Club and served there for 10 years, for eight years of which I was club captain”
“Then I was transferred to Kiama at the beginning of 91 and became a member of Kiama and one year later elected to the board, had 14 years on the board, five years as vice president, following by nine years as president.”
At about the same time as Dick became president of Kiama Golf Club, Des Coady, the then president of the NSWVGA, approached him about becoming secretary of the association.
Dick held that position for almost 12 years until last December when Des Coady stood down after 16 years at the helm. Dick threw his hat in the ring and was elected president.
Now some five months into the new job (as at May 2009), Dick is very mindful of the need to “consolidate and polish” the strong foundation and legacy that has been left to him.
“I wanted to consolidate what had been put in place to make sure that what Des Coady had set up, which seemed to be working pretty well, would continue,” Dick says.
What really drives the organisation in its mission to promote golf to veterans is the Week of Golf calendar.
The tournaments are typically four day events held Monday to Friday with a day off on Wednesday. Towards the end of the week there is usually a very well attended and much enjoyed presentation dinner.
Dick says the biggest event is held at Yamba/Mclean and attracts something like 420 competitors.
“Orange recently had 380, Coffs Harbour is usually around the 300 and just under the 300 mark would be Hawks Nest, Coolangatta/Tweed and Griffith. Then there’s another 10 or 12 events with over 200.”
At the other end of the scale are events like Gloucester.
”At Gloucester…they just kill you with kindness”
“You get a tournament like Gloucester which is only a nine hole course. They only take 80 people and they are delighted to have those 80 people four days out of the five.” Dick says. “They have a shotgun start at Gloucester and they reckon they have a ball and they‘ve got home cooking and scones and all sorts of things there and they just kill you with kindness.”
“That is again harking back to the economic influence of the tournaments in some of these districts because it is pretty big for them.”
Many veteran golfers really make a feast of it and travel for weeks on end, often as either a single or group of caravaners.
“The first veterans tournament I ever played, would you believe, was the National Veteran Championships in Port Macquarie in 94. That’s the first veterans event outside my own club,” Dick says.
“In the last round I played with a chap from South Australia, this was about October/November, and he and his wife had left home in February in their van and gone right up to the top of Queensland and come back and were on their way back home and they had a combination of just staying at caravan parks, site seeing plus playing golf.
“It was my first introduction to a concept of people going out on the road and travelling and following their ideals of site seeing, touring and playing golf.
“And that’s one of the driving things we’ve to do in the NSW program is to work it geographically so you can go from one tournament to the next and there is not a long distance to travel in between.”
“For example I have friends of mine who at the moment are getting ready to go to Tamworth, they’ll be playing a week of golf at Tamworth then they’ll be going to Narrabri for a week of golf then they’ll be going to Moree for a week of golf. So it that concept that they go away for three weeks at a time, or four or five weeks, whatever it may be.
“That was the first time I struck they idea of how, what’s the word, almost how dedicated some of these people were to getting out on the road, getting in their van, touring, holidaying, playing golf, and I thought that was great. It is certainly a feature of the NSW program that concept.”
The Lumley’s and Turell’s play at least 20 tournaments a year
Theoretically, you could play in 38 Weeks of golf in NSW a year.
“No one plays in all 38 but I could name a few people, the Lumley’s from Coffs Harbour would play a lot, the Turrell’s from Dubbo the same.
I hope I’m not misquoting them but they probably play at least 2o tournaments a year,” Dick says.
All the tournaments have mens and womens competitions and couples and singles are encouraged to take part.
Marie Farrant is an avid golfer of 20 years and she and husband Dick regularly attend tournaments together. Marie in fact won the ladies section of the NSW Veteran Matchplay last year and will be defending the title in the Illawarra in June.
“It is a very healthy exercise to be getting out on the road playing golf” Dick says.
“You have got people who are in their late seventies, early 80’s, who are quite good supporters of the tournaments. It is a tremendous mental thing for these people that they can get out, still be meeting people, still be competing. Because golf has handicaps, theoretically with your handicap you are able to compete against everyone else. Once you take out the younger folk and everyone is at least 55 years old you don’t feel you have to keep up with the Tiger Woods type young people who smash it a mile. Its very good camaraderie and I think also giving the women the opportunity to travel with their partners is a big plus.
“You get a few blokes who are on the road who play a lot of this golf who unfortunately have lost their wife and they find this terrific. They just get out there and meet everybody and it just puts the memories on the back burner for a little while.”
“You also get a lot of interaction between the people who are towing vans. Invariably they will get on these loops, say they might do the Tamworth, Narrabri, Moree events in consecutive weeks and when they get to the caravan parks they will all arrange to be booked in close to each other and they have their happy hours after golf and it is terrific. It is wonderful to be able to interact with people.”
As Dick says, he feel he is just giving back some of what golf has given him, but he is also confident he has a lot to contribute because of his long golf administration experience.
He acknowledges there are many others enthusiastically donating their time and expertise, firstly citing the “excellent” NSW executive team around him.
“An important thing which is probably taken for granted sometimes is the professional approach of all the (regional) tournament committees,” Dick says. “There are some very capable people who are running these tournaments and they are often people who have come up through the ranks not unlike myself who have been involved with their home club and now they are in there running a veteran tournament and handling big fields and results and things like that in a very professional manner.
“I suppose the strength of the association is firstly the network of all the group secretaries, so that’s the communication and dissemination of all the information, as well as the tournament directors. They’re the strength and they’re doing a tremendous job. And the tournament directors if they are worth their salt, which they all are, will have a very effective committee. You can’t afford to be a one man band. All of the events are run in a vey professional manner.”
Dick Farrant can’t say how long he will be at the helm of veteran golf in NSW. It depends, he says, on his health and how long he (and those around him) feel he has something to contribute.
Maybe it is just like his golf.
“I just like to get out and whack it and enjoy the company and the interaction afterward,” he says.