19 Jan 2021 | Clubs and Facilities |

Triple treat sparks Charlton

by Mark Hayes

Cooper Boyle (left), Wendy Laffin and Chris Mathews retrieve their balls after their respective magical shots.
Cooper Boyle (left), Wendy Laffin and Chris Mathews retrieve their balls after their respective magical shots.

Charlton needed a little “pick-me-up” in 2020.

The rural Victorian town on the banks of the Avoca River – an hour’s drive north-west of Bendigo – had, like many of its ilk, been battling through the pandemic’s sombre moments.

And then came the spark, statistically at least, from an extremely unlikely source.

Not once, not even twice, but three times, the golfing gods smiled upon the historic Victorian sand scrape course, providing that feel-good moment for all in the Buloke Shire.

It all started without fanfare at a club that hadn’t celebrated a hole-in-one for more than a decade.

Mallee-based coach Mark Bowd paid a visit for a junior clinic on August 14 when, partly because of Covid-19 restrictions around other sports, a generous turnout took in his tuition.

Among those irregular golfers was then 13-year-old Cooper Boyle, who, eager to put his new knowledge to the test out, wandered out to play a few holes afterwards, accompanied by the club’s women’s captain and junior co-ordinator Wendy Laffin, his sister Taylah and good friend Angus.

They’d reached the par-3 14th hole with Cooper having enjoyed various degrees of success with his new skill set on previous holes.

And while he didn’t exactly flush his tee shot, it was always right on line and as it trickled up on to the scrape, Wendy screamed: “Cooper, it’s in the hole!”

“It was an amazing little shot and when I yelled out, he just dropped his stick and took off,” she said.

Months later, Cooper, now 14, is still dining out on his feat – particularly when it comes to his father, Kirk, a 10 handicapper who hasn’t been graced by an ace, despite a family history of “ones”.

“I was a bit shellshocked when it went in, I’d never been close,” Cooper said.

“Wendy was screaming. Angus was pretty pumped and a couple of older boys a hole away heard the noise and came over to see what was going on.

“It was pretty cool. I’m still pretty happy with myself … plus I’ve got one up on Dad now.

“The funny thing was, I took a ball off Dad to go and play and when Wendy brought the trophy around (weeks later), it had that ball on it and now he doesn’t get to use that ball any more, either,” he said with a giggle as he joined his great grandmother Betty Baird and great grandfather Alan Cadzow in having had aces at Charlton.

Wendy’s role in this tale didn’t end there. Far from it.

Remarkably, just one day later, Laffin – herself an accomplished golfer playing off 12 – sidled up the seventh tee and drew her 7-iron from 100m off the red tees.

“I’d never thought about it. Ever,” she said.

“I’ve won a couple of small things here and there, but a hole-in-one is something you never think you’re going to have.

“But I was playing in an ambrose, the last in our group to hit and it looked a decent sort of a shot, but I thought it would just bounce through.

“But it landed on a little rise, rolled up and in. They (my playing partners) saw it and yelled and I just went a bit cold, really.

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh you’re kidding, but we got up there and there it was in the cup, so we took a photo and I tried to let it sink in.

“We had to finish our game, so it gave me a while to think and then we had a little celebration in the clubhouse and I was a little bit late home.

“By the time I got home, my husband Bernie said, ‘Golf took a long time today’.

“So I told him what happened and I don’t think he really believed me.”

Wendy said the double was a mystery to many in the clubhouse.

“We hadn’t had one for so long and Cooper’s caused quite a stir, so I think that people thought (mine) just couldn’t be true, too,” she joked.

But it wasn’t long until a third ace was added to cap the unprecedented 2020 winter.

The quietly spoken Chris Mathews, from 113m, dropped in his own 7-iron on the same hole less than four weeks later.

“I spoke to Chris and he was as laidback as ever. He sort of agreed it was incredible, but he doesn’t get too over the top about anything,” Wendy said with a giggle.

Wendy said the trifecta had become a great and positive talking point around town at a time when it was most needed.

She said the club, which has its main season from April to September, had welcomed many new players during Covid times, with people of all ages looking for activity and respite.

“You’d never say it was a good thing for anyone, but there’s certainly a lot more interest around the place now, which is great to have some new faces.”

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