Port Fairy GC
Port Fairy GC

Golf in the southwest of Victoria has received a major shakeup with 24 clubs in the area settling into their membership as part of the newly formed Western District Golf Association.

The association came into being after three former districts – South Western District Golf Association, Women’s Golf Western District and Corangamite District Golf Association – officially amalgamated on January 1.

The revamped district now encompasses an area from Camperdown in the east, to Dartmoor in the west and from Peterborough in the south to Balmoral in the north.

“I think we’re the only district in Victoria that has amalgamated three districts,” said Western District president Annette Learmonth.

The amalgamation takes the number of members in the district to close to 4,500 and followed 18 months of planning, according to secretary John Snowden.

“We’ve got a board of nine, four women and five men,” said Snowden, who is also a life member at Mortlake Golf Club.

Learmonth said the amalgamation gives golfers in the state’s west direct face-to-face contact with administrators, which it didn’t have previously.

“For some of the smaller clubs, Golf Victoria, the only contact they have with them is electronically with emails,” admitted Learmonth, who has also been secretary at Port Fairy Golf Club for the past seven years. “Quite often they don’t have access to Wi-Fi or Internet or it’s a very poor connection, so they do feel isolated. I think by us amalgamating and having a committee within their district, we can actually be a face to them, we’re not just a message on the screen.”

The amalgamation is also tipped to benefit the smaller clubs, many of which have sand scrape greens and rely on volunteers to stay afloat.

Learmonth said some clubs aren’t open for play year-round because of a shortage of volunteers.

“The small clubs have very limited finances. They pay an affiliation to us, which is only $8 (per player) a year, which allows them to compete in any of our district events.”

Juniors also stand to benefit from the amalgamation.

Learmonth said the district, in partnership with the South West Institute of Sport in Warrnambool, has earmarked funding to send young golfers to tournaments across the state and also send coaches to teach children in remote communities.

“There are some talented young kids out there but, financially, parents find it very hard to run them to Warrnambool or Port Fairy for any coaching. So instead of the kids coming to us, we’ll go to them and run clinics in an area, say for instance, Cobden, and that would incorporate Camperdown, Peterborough and Timboon. They might have to pay so much and then we’ll pay the balance.”

District pennant is expected to get a shake-up from 2016.

This year, clubs will compete, as they have in the past, against their former district counterparts before coming together to combine under the banner of the Western District Golf Association.

Snowden admitted reorganising pennant would be one of the biggest challenges of the amalgamation.

“Next year it will be one combined pennant hopefully,” he said. “We’ve given the match committee 12 months to work out what they want to do. We didn’t want to race in and make one big pennant and get it wrong.”

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