Von Walsh and her daughter Wendy Mason are a couple of golfing gurus, having hit 7 hole-in-ones between them! FOCUS chats to them about what they love about the sport.
How long have you been playing golf?
Von: For 50 years. I started out in Inverell.
Did you join the Sawtell Golf Club as soon as you moved here?
Von: No, I’d joined it before then. My husband and I were Country Members for 2 or 3 years before we moved here, at $12 a year.
Wendy, did you play when you were growing up?
Wendy: I played at school and with my brother, myself and a couple of friends, but we only really played so we could go away to school visits! I stopped playing when I was about 15 and discovered boys were more interesting! Then I took it up again when we were living here and my son wanted to play. Mum encouraged me, of course, and gave me clubs, hats and everything that you could possibly need to play golf.
What is it about golf that you enjoy so much?
Von: The friendship. Exercise too, but mainly the friendship.
Wendy: It’s challenging yourself too. That’s what any individual sport is about. You can go out one week and have a really good game, then the next week you can play really badly! So it’s always about pushing yourself to do well … not necessarily to win or beat anybody else, but just to push yourself. It’s a challenge every time you step on the golf course to do better than you’ve done before.
Von: I’ve been told if you don’t go out to win, you’re kidding. It doesn’t upset you if you don’t win, but that’s your goal – to win. And by winning, you’re playing well.
Wendy: You can win and play lousy too! It just depends what your competition is like.
So what’s the secret to a good game of golf?
Von: Patience and practice.
Wendy: Yeah, you’ve really got to practice. Get out in the back yard and chip the ball around, so that you’re confident to see a ball and hit it properly. I saw a piece on TV on the Golf Show. There was a young girl just starting out, and she had a round of golf with a group of lady professionals. She was being interviewed afterwards and they asked her what she got out of playing with the professionals … she said the one thing she got out of it is that every single shot is as important as the last one. So if you hit one shot and you think you’ve done really well, the next one is just as important. But if you hit a bad shot, you’ve got to forget that one and get on to the next one. And that’s where patience comes in.
Von: I know when I was first learning, we were lucky, because we had a vacant block and a park behind us. We used to hit out of our backyard into the park. We used to have competitions out of the backyard with my husband, my son and I. Wendy had moved by then, and I think that’s what has helped me a lot with my golf … patience and practice.
Do you still play together?
Wendy: I dragged her out a couple of weeks ago to play.
Von: I’m only playing 9 holes now. I’m 83 years old, and I’ve been playing for 50 years … Wendy and I used to play in the Foursomes Championship. I don’t know how many times we were runners up in that! It was a great surprise when we started winning that!
Wendy: I’ve also won the mixed Foursomes Championships four times with a male partner.
Von: Yeah, I used to win that before Wendy started, and I played with my son. I won it a few times in Inverell with my husband too.
Wendy: The foursomes is a hard game. If you and I were playing together, I’d hit off the tee, you’d hit the next ball, I’d hit the one after that, and so on … so if I hit a bad one and put it in the trees, you’ve got to get it out!
I hear you’ve hit a couple of hole-in-ones …
Von: I’ve hit 5 – one at Sawtell and four in Inverell. I’ll tell you about this one … there were bunkers all around the hole, and I hit the edge of a bunker and shot it sideways into the hole! There was another hole where the ball didn’t fall in the hole until I walked on the green! You remember those ones!
Have you hit any, Wendy?
Wendy: I’ve had one at Sawtell. Mum used to say to me: “You’d better hurry up and get one!” So I’ve got one! I’m working on another one!
Von: There are 15 hole-in-ones in my family. My husband had 4, I had a partner after him who also had 4. Wendy and Chris both had one, and I had a grandson who had one at school! He was only 15 at the time.
What handicaps are you playing on at the moment?
Wendy: I’m on 14.
Von: We don’t talk about my handicap! I used to be on 12 and was on that for about 15 years. But as you get older, your handicap isn’t as good … so we won’t talk about that!
Wendy, you play in the penance team too?
Wendy: Yeah. During penance season, you play just about every Monday at a different club. We have Mid North Coast and we have a Handicap Penance as well, and I play in both of those. There’s a penance season that goes for about 3 or 4 months of the year.
Wendy, didn’t you win a Country Medal?
Wendy: Yes, I won a NSW Medal a couple of years ago. You’re selected from the club as having the best medal rounds of the year, and you go down to Sydney and you play all the other country members. I played at Bonnie Doon, and won the state medal – which was really exciting. There’s only one other person from Sawtell who’s ever won it. It was a real thrill to play and win that.
And Von, we hear you won the B-Grade Championships here a few years ago …
Von: Yes, I did.
Wendy: They were all very surprised that an older person won it, rather than all the young ones coming through. Sometimes the older ones are coming down and the young ones are coming up … so she knocked them all off! She also won our Spring Tournament.
Von: I won that two years running. And I think about four years I won something … golf shoes and golf bags.
It’s great that you win prizes, like shoes, that you can put towards your game, isn’t it?
Von: Yes, and you know what? In 50 years I’ve never bought a golf ball! I’ve won them all. Well, when I first started, my husband said I had to break my handicap before I got a new ball. And he would play with a ball one week, and then he’d give it to me to play with. So I had to break my handicap before I got a new ball to play with, and then I started winning them anyway!
Wendy: I don’t think I’ve ever bought one either. Or a golf tee, and I’ve only ever bought one pair of golf shoes, because you win that stuff! It’s better to win something like that than two dozen glass bowls. You win money now too, and that pays for fees, clothes, etc.
Tell us about the beginners programs here at Sawtell Golf Club.
Wendy: They have a really good beginners group here on a Monday. Last year I walked with them, not so much to teach them to play golf, but to teach them the rules and the etiquette of golf. I didn’t do it this year, because every time it was on I had a penance day, but I’ve got my name down to work with the beginners in 2012. I enjoy that. If you see them doing something dramatically wrong, you can correct their stance and that sort of thing, but it’s really there to encourage them.
Golf Clubs are dying and unless young people get out there and play, the clubs are just going to die out. So we need to encourage the younger people to play. There’s a really good juniors program at the club too on a Sunday morning and Friday afternoon. There’s a little 3-hole course at Sawtell for the kids, which is fabulous. The kids are the future of the golf clubs.
Thanks Von and Wendy.