By Brian O’Hare
JOHN CIEZKI turned up at the 2012 Australian Veteran Golfers Union (AVGU) National Championships in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula as a late entrant with no preparation.
Ciezki was just basically looking for a few beers and a good time but when he won the major title he thought it was “awesome”.
This week he turned up in Canberra to defend his title with a whole lot more planning and preparation but after a week of competition it was the same result – another big win.
“I can’t believe I am standing here again this year saying the same thing except it is even more awesome,” Ciezki told the championship presentation dinner in the national capital.
“I didn’t expect last year to win and I didn’t know what to expect this year either. I have just been very honoured and lucky to be standing in front of all you all celebrating this fantastic event and this fantastic win.”
The AVGU National Championship is and annual event for golfers aged 55 and over that rotates around the states and territories.
This year some 300 golfers from across the country gathered in Canberra to contest the event on three of the region’s premier courses, Gungahlin Lakes, Yowani and Gold Creek.
Ciezki, from the Buninyong Golf Club near Ballarat in Victoria, started the week as a five handicapper but ended on three.
After 54 holes of stroke play the 60 year old beat his nearest rivals by four strokes. Three golfers shared the second rung of the leaderboard, Ron Hall (3) from the Port Kembla Golf Club in NSW, Kevin O’Brien (5 handicap) from the Federal Golf Club, and Thomas Harold (2) from Darwin.
“Last year it was crazy. This year it is just unbelievable,” Ciezki said. “I’m absolutely over the moon. I played miles better this year than last year. I’m glad all the things I tried to do over the year have come together virtually for this week.”
Ciezki seems to have undergone something of a golfing enlightenment since winning last year.
“I didn’t focus all year but I did set myself. I had a lot of really bad rounds for half a year trying to get things right and it has all come together in the last month which was really good,” he said.
“So I am able to stand up on the tee and not worry or wonder where that ball is going to go, just stand up there and go ‘bang’ and there it goes.”
“I bought a new driver, tried a few shafts, tweaked my swing again for the 18th time, bought a new putter – that didn’t work to well today but mostly it did for the week – and basically got my body right. I saw a few blokes to get my body right so I didn’t have to carry bad backs and bad shoulders and a bad neck.”
If you’re worried Ciezki might start sounding like one of the new breed of PGA Tour player with daily visits to the gym and a mental coach, don’t be concerned.
“Bugger the gym,” he said. “I do enough walking I don’t have to worry about the gym.”
And there won’t be a mental coach.
“My wife [Annette, who also acted as his caddy] is the balance beam. She’s the balance between what I do and how I go about it. She tells me if I am going off track a little bit or to pull my head in if need be. That’s what she does.”
Ciezki was certain of one thing, that he’ll be defending his title at the next championship in the South West region of Western Australia in November 2014.
“I have to defend it,” he said. “Two in a row, going for three, I don’t know if it has been done before, I’m going to have a crack at it.”
The golf swing won’t be changing.
“I won’t be tweaking the swing again. No, the swing is good, leave the swing alone. The clubs are good, leave the clubs alone – maybe just work on my putting a little bit,” he laughed.
Tournament director Paul Gringas from the ACT Region Veteran Golfers Association was delighted with the success of the week and that all the hard work put in by the many volunteers involved in the event had paid off.
Gringas said the week had seen near perfect weather, excellently prepared courses and some wonderful golf played.
“It is worth all the effort, it always is,” Gringas said. “You meet some wonderful people, and it is played in such a good spirit, that was the thing. It was wonderful to be out there spotting and seeing them enjoying it so much. Yeah, it was very good and I’m very pleased. Mind you, I don’t know what I will do tomorrow when I wake up at 5am – maybe try and sleep in.”
Next year the tournament moves to the Bunbury area in the South West region of Western Australia and tournament director Mike Elliott was already spruiking the delights of the area.
“People can expect four championship courses that are wonderfully laid out and very well kept,” Elliott said.
The 2014 championship will see a number of innovations to the tournament itself and will be held in an area bulging with the kind of natural and man-made attractions that have seen it become the most popular regional tourist destination in WA. For more information about the 2014 championship visit the website here.
The AVGU National Championship is open to all golfers aged 55 and over with an official handicap. The event is usually played in four grades for men and two divisions for women. Find out more about Veteran Golf here.