Experience pays off for senior duo

Two of the Mount Gambier Golf Club’s senior members turned back the clock with victories in last week’s competitions.

Former high school principal Grant Stephenson, who got his handicap down to as low as five during the 1980s, but at age 75 has seen it drift out to about 20, won Saturday’s SE Voice stableford event with a score of 39 points.

Former talented East Gambier footballer Dennis “Shiner” Smith, who got his handicap down to seven in his mid-30s but now at 73 plays off about 23, claimed Thursday’s stableford competition with 40 points.

Stephenson, who was a member and committeeman at the Attamurra club in the 1980s before moving to Penola with the Education Department, only “returned home” a couple of years ago.

His handicap at the time was “about 13 or 14”, but it has slowly drifted out as he simply cannot hit the ball as far, or as well, as he once did.

“The body has certainly slowed down. At my age it just cannot do what your mind thinks it still can,’’ he said.

“Winter was so wet there was not much run on the fairways which makes it hard, plus my putting is pretty ordinary.

“Having said that, I am enjoying playing off 20 … I was certainly pretty chuffed with the win.”

While winners often point to a good day on the greens as their reason for their victories, that was not the case for Stephenson … well, up to a point anyway.

He still had 38 putts, but a hot run with the flat stick in the space of four holes on the front nine was enough to see him top the leaderboard.

After notching just seven points in the first four holes, he made a one-putt birdie from about 12 feet on the par-four 5th hole to add four more, before a two-putt par on the par-three 6th saw another three added to the tally.

Two more rare one-putt greens on the next two holes, for a three-point par on the 7th and a four-point birdie on the 8th saw him race to 21 points with one more hole to go on the front nine.

That was where the putting demons returned, however.

A four-putt green on the 9th hole produced his first wipe of the day and three putts on the par-three 10th added just one more.

Another single point on the par-five 11th saw him come back to the field, but he steadied to rack up 16 more on the final seven holes to come in with 39 points.

That was one ahead of Paul Kenny who won B Grade by two points from Moryn Sullivan.

A count-back was needed to determine the winner in A Grade, with Archy Arch getting the nod from Peter Waters after the pair signed for 37 points apiece.

Stephenson’s best score of the day saw him win C Grade by two points from John Miles who managed 37 points despite wiping the 5th and 15th holes.

Special mention goes to high school student Mitch Handford, the five handicapper managing just 13 points on the front nine before lighting up with 23 more on the back nine after shooting a one-under par 35.

While the wind was up on Saturday it was not quite as bad as Thursday’s gale force conditions, although the good scoring showed many in the 81-strong field did not let it put them off their game.

Fourteen players managed to match or beat their handicap, with Smith’s 40 points one better than Jeff Hodge, Rodney Summers and Leigh McCracken who all finished with 39.

Smith, who has only been back playing regularly since early last year after an almost 20-year break, started on the 10th hole and had a solid 19 points on the back nine.

He looked like he may have blown that after wiping the par-five first hole, but got back on track with a three-point bogey on the second and a four-point birdie on the par-four 3rd hole.

The hole that made the difference, however, was the par-five 7th where he chipped in from about 20m short of the green for another four-point birdie that helped him score 21 points on the front nine.

Meanwhile Hodge, playing off a handicap of six, took second on a count-back after scoring 17 points on the front nine before adding 22 more on the back nine thanks to an even-par 36 off the stick.

Summers followed up 19 points on the front nine with 20 on the back, but was left rueing a wipe on the 11th hole.

McCracken looked like shooting the lights out after scoring five three-pointers in the first six holes to race to 17, but could only manage six more in the next five holes thanks to three double-bogeys and two bogeys.

He regrouped with four consecutive pars, but the bird had flown and he had to settle for 19 points on the back nine for a total of 39 and fourth place.

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