03 Aug 2023 | Participation |
Ian's long history honoured at Wonthaggi Golf Club
Wonthaggi local Ian Sullivan has been recognised by his fellow competitors as a "legend of the game" after celebrating 70 years at the Wonthaggi Golf Club.
Ian first played on the nine-hole sand scrape course at 13-years-old in 1953, becoming one of the first junior members of the club - playing alongside doctors, lawyers, and professional golfers.
He played every afternoon after school and volunteered his time working on the course when it was converted to an 18-hole grass greens layout by the end of 1954.
“We never had any water on the course in those days, so we only played golf into winter," he said.
"After a period of time, we put a bit of water to the greens, but the only way to do that was through working bees – known as the voluntary watering system - all the members worked together with handheld hoses or sprinklers that were moved around the greens.
“In those early days, the number of months a man played golf is half of what they play now.”
Compared to the doctors including Dr Sleeman who had a full set of golf clubs, Ian only had six to seven clubs in his bag, including a wooden shafted two iron, a wooden shafted wedge, and a wooden shafted putter.
Captain of the Wonthaggi Golf Club Ian Baker said modern technology compared to what Ian had is incomparable.
Within two years of joining the club as a junior, Ian won his first B-grade championship in 1956 and his first club championship in 1957 where his name was first presented on The Lance “Doc” Sleeman Cup.
Over the course of 70 years, Ian witnessed the Wonthaggi Golf Club transform. He started on the committee from 18 years of age and spent many years as president.
“The club had very little money, for instance, we only had a single room clubhouse with outside toilets and a tin shed to house the tractor.
“Originally, all the fairways were just the greens, and then over a period of time we built some up and changed some around. Again, it was all done with voluntary work, and the farmers donating their machinery to upgrade the course.”
The only funding the club received was through membership fees, events, and tournaments, and it was then that the club gradually grew.
Through Ian’s passion for golf, he took away 16 club championships and 16 South Gippsland Championships. Ian said a highlight in his years of playing was when he played an exhibition with noted Australian professional Norman Von Nida.
“He was just unreal; he gave a clinic here in Wonthaggi and then him and I played together.
"It was only natural that he would outplay me and once we came off the 18th he took a look at my bag and I told him these clubs are all I could afford on my apprentice wage.
“Two weeks later he had organised for me to be fitted for a full set of Slazenger golf clubs and those sets saw me out,” said Ian.
When Ian was 76, he parred the course but his eyesight then began declining and he had to say goodbye to the game he spent his lifetime playing.
Ian Sullivan will forever be a ‘legend of the game’ to the Wonthaggi Golf Club and their members.
Story thanks to Nicole May of the South Gippsland Sentinel Times
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