JOHN CIEZKI is quick to admit he was a last minute entry to the 2012 Regis Australian Veteran Golfers Union National Championship on the Mornington Peninsula.
The 60 year old Victorian golfer thought the week-long event might be a good opportunity to have a few beers, spend some time with his mates and play on some half decent golf courses.
He took a week off work, packed his clubs and turned up rearing to go.
What he discovered was that the National Veteran Golfers Championships has become a huge annual event that attracts hundreds of older golfers from right around the country.
It turned out to be not only an excellent opportunity to socialise with his friends – and play some very good golf courses – but he ended up winning the whole shebang as well.
“It’s just awesome,” Ciezki said after being awarded the AVGU National Championship title. “It’s just been an absolutely fantastic week.”
Ciezki, a six handicapper from the Buninyong Golf Club near Ballarat, had the best A Grade gross score over 54 holes of stroke play at three of Australia’s best, and toughest, courses.
The three courses used for the championship, The National Golf Club’s Ocean Course, Moonah Links Legends Course and The Dunes Golf Links, are all well inside the Australian Top 50.
“These courses are just deadly,” Ciezki said. “I found today’s course (The National) was absolutely mind bogglingly hard.”
“I didn’t expect to be here [as the winner] by a long shot. I was expecting just to walk around the courses and enjoy what I haven’t played before. My aim was just to walk around and enjoy the courses and the good scores just came along.”
With a gross score of 247, Ciezki beat joint runners-up Malcolm Wolfe (six handicap) from the Mt Lawley Golf Club in Western Australia and Tim Dillon (two handicap) from the Redcliffe Golf Club in Queensland by a solitary stroke.
In all, 533 people participated in the 2012 event, which began on Monday November 12 with a fourball primer tournament at the Rosebud Country Club.
The participants included 332 male golfers, 119 female golfers and 82 registered non-players.
They came from all states and territories of Australia with 149 from Queensland, 124 from NSW, 108 from Western Australia, 55 from Victoria, 43 from the ACT, 19 from South Australia, 19 from the Northern Territory and 16 from Tasmania.
To be eligible players need to be aged over 55 and have an official handicap. The men traditionally play three championship rounds of stroke play in three grades while ladies play in a daily and 54 hole stableford competitions in two divisions.
The tournament itself rotates annually through the states and territories and there were a number of 2012 attendees who have done all eight and are on their second lap around the nation. Each year they meet up with a growing group of friends, often making an extended holiday out of the event, and play some great golf courses at a very reasonable rate.
Next year the championship is being held in Canberra in November in association with the National Capital’s Centenary celebrations and in 2014 it will be heading to the south west of Western Australia.
The 2012 event was hosted by the Mornington Peninsula Veteran Golfers Association.
You’d think letting 150 or so older C Grade golfers loose playing stroke rounds on some of Australia’s toughest links course would be a recipe for disaster but thanks to the hard work of tournament director Ken McNamara and his committee there was barely a hiccup.
Most of the competitors, like John Ciezki, finished the week with smiles wider than some of the fairways.
“I have just had a fantastic and awesome week with my mates. That’s the whole idea of this particular week I reckon. Just be with your mates and have a good time.”
Next year, his attendance won’t be a last minute rush. (The tournament was booked out months in advance but there were late cancellations)
“I’ve already booked myself into Canberra. My sister lives there. I’ve already rung her up and said I’m going to be there next year … with some guests,” he laughs. “It’s going to be another great week.”
[This article was also published in the December edition of Inside Golf]