DIG IN: A group of Ashgrove Golf Club members at work on the club’s beautification program.

EVERY Wednesday morning, a 30-strong band of faithful Ashgrove Golf Club members turn up to do voluntary work around their beloved golf course.

For all of them, it’s a labour of love.

Some volunteers are rookies while others like 84-year-old Col Welch have been chipping in for decades.

“I have been volunteering at the club for 35 years – ever since I joined as a member,” Col said. “I have only missed three working bees in 35 years.”

The club’s operations manager Michael Ronan said the volunteers were involved in a range of activities including major works.

“One day they will be working on irrigation and other days it’s mowing, brush-cutting or laying new turf,” he said.

“They do a lot of the project work like cart paths and things like that. In fact, we have volunteers right across the whole operation, including behind the bar.

“The amount of work they do around the place is unbelievable. It’s in excess of 900 hours a month.

“We are very lucky we have such generous members. Through our volunteers, we were able to get superintendent Darren Allen a Bayer environmental award.”

Recently Inside Golf caught up with the loyal, cheery band of volunteers as they worked on course presentation by laying new turf and spreading bark as part of the club’s beautification program.

The adage “many hands make light work” certainly applied here.

As soon as the tip truck dumped the bark, the pile was spread evenly across bare patches within minutes.

Then it was back to jovial banter and friendly chatter until the next truckload arrived.

There’s great camaraderie among the volunteers, who come from all walks of life.

There are air traffic controllers, lawyers, engineers, stockbrokers, company directors, carpenters, a former school principal, a builder, a truckie and a chef to name a few.

They might come from varying backgrounds, but they have one thing in common – golf.

“We do it to make the golf course better for everyone,” Col said. “Instead of complaining you come out and do something about it.

“And you can contribute to ideas and what needs to be done next.”

Former school principal Pat Franks said there was a great social atmosphere around the group.

“It’s our men’s shed,” he said.

“We get a lot of satisfaction seeing the course looking so good,” he said.

“Everyone has noticed the difference.”

At 10am, the club provides morning tea and the volunteers sit around discussing their morning’s work and the next assignment.

Some, like Bruce Gill, stay on to assist in other areas.

“Three or four of these blokes go out and mow after they have finished here,” said superintendent Darren.

“Guys like Bruce Gill and a few other regulars will finish the working bee, having morning tea and come back out and give me another three hours on a rough mower.

“Then there are others that put in up to eight hours on a Tuesday and a Friday.

“These guys make a huge difference. The place would not present as well as it does without them.”

The women members, too, make a valuable contribution.

“They do a lot of the gardening work around the clubhouse,” Ronan said. “One lady brought in plants from her home garden and did a big garden around the fourth tee.

“They also are heavily involved in doing the raffles and fundraising for the club.”


FOOTNOTE: Ashgrove Golf Club recently received a $150,000 state government grant for revegetation and stabilisation of the creek that runs through the golf course.



Col the age breaker

HE’S 84 years old, but Col Welch is showing no signs of slowing down.

Over the past 35 years, the Ashgrove Golf Club stalwart has missed just three working bees.

When he’s not doing voluntary work, Col is working on trying to break his handicap and age.

In the past six years the 17 marker has managed to break his age 30 times.

“I have just gone out to 17, but in about 1990 I played off 12,” he said. “I have always been in B grade.”

Col first broke his age six years ago when he fired an immaculate 76 off the stick.

“I had a 77 off the stick earlier this year – that was seven-under my handicap. I average breaking my age about five times a year.

“I’m up to 30 now and I’m going to try and keep going,” he said.

It takes hard work, but Col, a builder by trade, is used to it.

Only last year he reroofed his house.

“The roof was 54 years old and rusting so I pulled it off and put on a Colorbond roof,” he said.

“I even built the house on my own on weekends.

“I used to ride my pushbike from Bardon to Arana Hills (13kms), start work on the house at dawn and finish in the dark.”


About David Newbery

Chief writer David Newbery has been living, breathing and writing and editing golf for more than 30 years. His extensive knowledge of the game comes from covering golf around the world. Hired by Inside Golf in 2009, David previously worked as the editor of The Golfer for 25 years and before that worked for numerous daily newspapers in Australia and overseas. The Brisbane-based journalist describes his golf game as “a work in progress”, but has had the privilege of playing golf with some of the game’s best players including nine-time major winner Gary Player. David enjoys travelling, reading, music, photography and spending time with family and friends – on and off the golf course.


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