Transcript of an Address to the Golf Club by Tom Dignam. 22-11-98
Firstly I don’t want to bore you with statistics, etc. The President asked me if I knew anything about the beginnings of golf in Yea. I should, as I was living on this property when golf started here. Our house was near the present 6th green and an old box tree there was just outside my bedroom window. The pepper-corn tree was on the other side.
Golf began on the Racecourse on the 6th June 1923 – a Wednesday, the half day holiday up until 1928. A report said the weather was cold, there was a fair roll up and all enjoyed the afternoon tea provided by the ladies. The President was Reverend O’Sullivan, Minister of the Scots Church, with the un-Presbyterian name of Horatio Eugene Augustus O’Sullivan. He was a good scout – used to score for cricket teams but never recovered from the death of a son, aged about 20.
The Secretary was J.A. Smith, a jeweller, and grandfather of Bruce and Lyle Nicholson. Good golf was shown by Dr.Sweetman and Dr. Cherish (probably his wife) on the first outing. The Rev. gentleman and a Mr Cross tied for the Men, 50 – 7 = 43. (Apart from Doctors, all men were referred to as Mr.)
Dr. Cherish returned a 25 for the Ladies, off scratch, but the winner was Mrs.McGowan with 40 – 15 = 25. It didn’t say how many holes were played.
It was only a 9 hole Course, one of which was in the next door paddock, owned by my father, who said he had no objection to its location. It was to the right of the present 11th fairway. It lasted only a year or two at the most.
Racing on this new course began in 1905. We – my family – became the lessees of the property on which we milked 20 or so cows – which the golfers hardly approved. We co-existed for seven or eight years but fate intervened in April 1930, when my father died aged 68! A year later my mother and the family tossed it in and moved to our own 29 acre property next door – the house not far from Dr.Lowe’s. Later sheep were allowed to graze on the racecourse, later still grass hay was cut and a complete course of sand greens was established. The course has been altered four or five times, finally settling with grass greens in 1992.
In the late 20’s and early 30’s it was pre buggy days; clubs were carried in a bag and there were occasional caddies (we boys made the odd sixpence). Herb Sayer, long time President persisted with plus fours! Another sidelight was the saga of Sunday tennis in Yea. The council was adamant that Golf a mile out of town was ok but tennis in town could not be tolerated. Opposition eventually collapsed.
To begin the 1933 season, the course was at last extended to 18 holes, going over the racecourse and up the hill. An Open Tournament was launched on his King’s Birthday weekend. In 1931 the main event was won by Jim Elliot’s father from Alexandra.
Golf was becoming popular and in 1938 a clubhouse was erected. My recollection is that it was financed by members taking out debentures. I certainly remember printing them and subscribing but my amount, not very much, was never redeemed. In the early days a small sort of office was built where the present day 10th green is. What became of it I don’t know. Around 1935/37 the racing club’s booth was catering headquarters. Tea was made from a copper. There were no races in Yea from 1937 to 1948, so the golfers had practically exclusive use of the reserve.
After the obvious war time slowdown, golf boomed in the 50’s and ever since the membership increased; Pennant teams, both men and ladies, had success in Dalhousie pennants and individual titles and the annual tournament drew large fields. To avoid the regular day fogs in 1970 the annual Tournament was reduced to 27 holes and no less than 89 men hit-off. George Prideaux won in a play-off. The field possibly touched 100 in subsequent years.
President R.H. Smith’s great inspiration was to stage a Victorian Sandgreens Championship. Yea hosted the first two, 1972/73, and the competition is still going. First Winner was Peter Clark (Croydon) from George Prideaux. George won in 1973, two strokes up on Barry Moore.
Mention of Barry reminds me that he won 15 Club Championships and cousin Dorothy Pollard 26 for the Ladies. Both were coached by Trevor Weatherhead. Lorraine Christie has won the Ladies Championship 18 times.
The next inspirational advance was during the Presidency of David Lawson. It was the change to a full course of grass greens. The official opening was performed by Mr.Mortsuyoshi Nihei, representing Daiwa P/Ltd, major financial sponsor.
So where I lived for 17 years is now a recreation reserve. It hosts races, golf, pony club, cricket with a turf wicket. In the early days before golf, there was clay pigeon shooting there as well.
Things have changed but golf is keeping Yea’s name to the fore. Perhaps several young hopefuls are doing it best – Ryan Akers, Daniel Atkins, Anthony Simmons and John Paul Mullaly – doesn’t he play off 2 or 3.