27 Oct 2021 | Clubs & Facilities |
Sanctuary Cove's 92-year-old club champion
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck It’s not often that the C Grade Club Champion gets a standing ovation, but Alan Welch is not your regular club champion.
The 92-year-old last weekend claimed the C Grade Club Championship crown at Sanctuary Cove Golf and Country Club on the Gold Coast, winning his third and final match on Sunday 4&3 to secure the title.
His opponent in the final was 32 years his junior, Alan having celebrated his 92nd birthday in July.
A founding member of Latrobe Golf Club as a 17-year-old, Alan’s golf accomplishments abound with club championships and foursomes victories over the past eight decades but at Sanctuary Cove on Sunday evening as he made his way through the crowd from the back of the room, something beautifully spontaneous happened.
One by one members stood to applause, as much in recognition of Alan’s most recent triumph as for the inspiration and joy he brings to members of all ages.
"I felt almost embarrassed because while I’m the age that I am I’m still pretty fit,” Alan revealed two days later, still somewhat surprised at the flood of well wishes and emails that his win elicited.
Coached in his early days in the game by legendary Australian figure Ossie Pickworth, Alan estimates that he has broken his age 80-odd times, including 18 times in 2020 alone.
He shot rounds of 99 and 97 to qualify for the match play section of the championships, his 62-year-old opponent in round one of the match play the oldest competitor he faced.
Locked together after 18 holes, Alan advanced to the final after watching his 50-year-old opponent in the second round on Sunday morning four-putt the first extra hole, the recent purchase of a $75 putter proving to be his secret weapon as he added to his B Grade Club Championship wins of 2008 (aged 79) and 2012 (aged 83) and his Sanctuary Cove Members Shootout victory in 2011 highlighted by an ace at the par-3 16th.
A three-times a week golfer at Sanctuary Cove that includes a weekly hit with the ‘Early Birds’, Alan regularly plays with young tour players such as Anthony Quayle, Charlie Dann and Kade McBride.
Along with the exercise it helps to keep him young at heart and provides an example to other elderly members within the club.
"I received numerous e-mails from people and said that if my win can inspire other senior people then I’m very happy about that,” Alan adds.
"I wouldn’t be able to play if we couldn’t use carts but even getting in and out of the cart, walking from the green to the tee, I think it keeps you healthy.
"If I can encourage and inspire other people to get out I’m very pleased with that.
“It’s a great game, I’ve played it all those years and you meet a lot of nice people.”
And although tempted to hang up the sticks as a winner, Alan has every intention of coming back in 2022 to defend his title.
"I intend to keep playing as long as I can swing a golf club,” said Alan, who celebrated his win with a couple of drinks in the clubhouse and a game at Links Hope Island on Monday.
"I got an email from some friends who have left the club and I said to them it might be time to give it away and go out on a high.
“But I also said, Never say never.
“If I’m fit this time next year I think I’d still be playing in it.”
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