13 May 2021 | Clubs and Facilities |

Wantima raises a glass for Vic clubs

by Dane Heverin

Wantima members cheers their Victorian friends
Wantima members cheers their Victorian friends.

An “out of the blue” email during Victoria’s second lockdown last year stunned David Stein, general manager of Cheltenham Golf Club.

And he wasn’t alone.

“I had to read it twice because I couldn’t believe it,” said Tim O'Sullivan, general manager of Devilbend Golf Club, upon reading the same email. 

It was an offer of more than $4,500 each for both Cheltenham and Devilbend from Marcus Sullivan, general manager of Wantima Country Club.

The home of Australian star Cameron Smith had no existing connection to either club, but wanted to help fellow golf clubs when Victoria entered its second lockdown last July.

In the Wantima bar, situated approximately 30 minutes north of the Brisbane CBD, the members got to work.

For six weeks, $1 from every drink purchase was donated.

$9,097 was raised and Sullivan could not be more proud.

“We’re a club with white collar assets, but a blue collar heart,” said Sullivan.

The initiative quickly gained the support of Golf Australia, the Professional Golfers Association of Australia, and Golf Managers Australia.

But the decision needed to be made on who would receive money, so Sullivan called John Stamp, Golf Australia’s clubs and facilities manager.

“Stampy recommended Devilbend and Cheltenham because of their unique challenges, and we were happy to go with his endorsement,” said Sullivan.

Like all clubs, Devilbend was hit hard by lockdown.

But being situated on the Mornington Peninsula made things a little more difficult.

When golf resumed it was out of the 25km range of many Melburnian golfers, preventing things from returning to normal.

All staff took pay cuts, reduced their working hours and those who did not qualify for JobKeeper were stood down.

Wantima’s generosity showed that “we (golf clubs) are not all competitors, we want everyone to succeed,” said O’Sullivan.

“The golf community is such a great place for looking after each other.” 

Cheltenham, just down the road from Royal Melbourne Golf Club in the heart of Melbourne’s famous sandbelt, was overrun by the public during lockdown. 

Bike riders used the course’s hills as jumps, dog owners let their pets run free and kids played all sorts of games on the fairways, in the bunkers and sometimes even the greens.

“Being an open course, the maintenance became more difficult,” said Stein.

There are plenty of areas where the money will come in handy for both clubs, but they are yet to decide what exactly it will be spent on.

“We have a fundraiser each year and we missed that during Covid, so possibly the money will cover that or we’ll put it towards another project that benefits the community,” said Stein.

At Devilbend, it will be used for a new project and when that’s decided upon, “the Wantima members will be the first to know,” said O’Sullivan.

For now, the three general managers are finalising reciprocal rights deals and there have been mentions of competitions between the clubs and annual golf trips.

The Devilbend and Cheltenham members love to head north for some warmth and golf during Melbourne’ winter and they’ll be encouraged “to get to Wantima, play golf and put money over the bar,” said both O’Sullivan and Stein.

And the Wantima members will be very welcome at both clubs when they come down to Melbourne.

“The mood throughout Covid has been very negative, but this shows there is some positivity around and we’re going to have a great relationship with Wantima,” said Stein.

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