22 Feb 2023 | Feature stories |
ADF matches continue to serve greater purpose
by Dane Heverin
The Australian Defence Force Golf Team will once again compete against Victorian and Golf Australia teams on the Mornington Peninsula next month as the event will be staged for a 33rd time.
Sorrento Golf Club will continue its role as the home of the Victorian versus the ADF Golf Association matches from March 16-17, while Rosebud Country Club will play host to a Golf Australia team taking on the ADF from March 20-21.
The events adopt a Ryder Cup-style format with foursomes and four-ball matches on day one, before singles matches between the 12 players from each team on the second day.
The ADF team select 10 men and two women from their highly talented broader squad of roughly 25 players made up of members of the army, navy and air force.
The handicaps of their men’s players range from +3 to 5, while their two women’s players are single figure handicaps.
“A lot of the squad play a lot of golf. It’s certainly the primary sport for almost everybody in the squad I’d say,” ADF playing captain Stuart McLean said.
“There are one or two guys who are those annoyingly talented people that can do everything well.”
Throughout the event’s history the ADF sides have never been short of talent.
In the second edition of the event, the Victorian invitational team boasted five state champions and Australian Amateur champion Randall Hicks, yet the ADF took the bragging rights back to the old army training barracks at Point Nepean where both teams stayed.
Nowadays, the event looks like quite different as the evenings in the barracks have been replaced with formal dinners attended by senior officials from Canberra and the current Victorian and Golf Australia teams are selected from the Senior Order of Merit.
The ADF on the other hand determine their squad through performances at their national tournament which is played annually in late November or early December to avoid any clash with the ADF members being out on exercise.
They rotate players through from their squad to encourage players to pursue their golf and because work commitments often make it difficult for the same 12 players to be available for each event.
The ADF squad also regularly play against the Australian Federal Police and the Sunshine Coast and South Burnett Glasshouse Golf Association, and every few years they go on international tours.
A trip across the Tasman to take on the Australian Federal Police, the New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Defence Force is in the works currently and these opportunities serve as major motivation for the members of the squad.
“I think being able to play sport while working in Defence keeps a lot of people in Defence as well,” McLean said.
“Not that they are looking to leave but it’s a sweetener to be able to represent the ADF and play sport on work time. Not many careers allow you to do that and it’s certainly a bonus that many people within Defence appreciate.”
The discipline required to craft one’s golf game and the subsequent physical and mental heath benefits associated with the sport are attributes highly regarded within the ADF and they are eager to have more people undertaking a golfing journey.
Growth in female participation is a major focus for the ADF Golf Association as roughly 15 women compete in their national tournament every year.
To help boost that number and increase the quality of play amongst those already hitting the fairways, a development squad has been formed to assist players on their golfing journey.
“We are doing everything we can to grow the game for females, increase their skill level and get more of them down to single figure handicaps,” McLean said.
ADF team member Julie Lakotij is a providing a clear pathway for other ADF women interested in golf to follow.
Lakotij is a major who works in medical science, and she has lowered her handicap from 18 to five in recent years.
Balancing their career with golf is not straightforward for ADF however.
Members are posted to different bases around the country every two to four years – especially in the early years of their career – and are away on exercise or on deployment overseas for long periods of time which makes settling into a golf club difficult.
Although, overcoming those obstacles is not impossible and three other members of the ADF team - Daryl Whitehead, Rod Smylie and Tony Greenwood – have proven that too.
Whitehead, Smylie and Greenwood are all retiring from the ADF making this year’s event their last and as a result they will be honoured at the formal dinner at Sorrento.
Long-time Victorian team manager Pat Giles – who is a former playing captain in this event and was the founding chair of the seniors committee for the Victorian Golf Association - is in awe of how they have played golf to such a high standard while piecing together remarkable careers in the ADF.
“Daryl is a navy helicopter pilot and moved here from the UK. He previously won the European Armed Forces Championships. He’s at Royal Canberra and has won several championships there,” Giles said.
“Rod is a flight lieutenant and shot 66 at Pacific Dunes a few weeks ago. He is the club champion there, as is his wife and they won the mixed foursomes together, and he is off +2.
“Wherever he’s been posted, he’s gone and won the club championship. He’s got about 13 to his name.
“Tony is one of only five regimental sergeant majors and heads up the military police, and he’s off +2 at The National and shot 67 only a few weeks ago.
“They’re pretty talented players.”
The event is about more than the likes of Whitehead, Smylie and Greenwood showing off their skills however.
“There is a strategic reason why Defence plays – for community engagement,” McLean said.
“It’s about getting the message around what Defence is doing and it’s also about being a part of the community and ambassadors for the Defence Force.
“The Senior Order of Merit players are fiercely competitive, but they are also really good people on and off the course, so the engagement is great and it is a highlight for everyone that plays.”
For Victorian player Allan Bullis this year’s event marks a significant achievement of being selected after also competing in the inaugural contest.
“Allan has come full circle because he was a state player in the early 1990s,” Giles said.
“He was won around 15 club championships at Portsea Golf Club and has been a leading player in Victoria for a long time.”
Last year the Victorian team won 12.5 to 11.5, while the ADF claimed victory with the same score line against the Golf Australia team.
The contests are also one of very few events in the world to be able to say they were never disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic with the 2020 edition played in the week before entering lockdown, and no edition since having to be rescheduled from its March timeslot.
2023 GA Team:
Mike Peeck – Playing Manager
Darryl Hearsch – Non-Playing Assistant Manager
Adrian Barr – Non-Playing Assistant Manager
2023 Vic Team:
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