An Early Memory

An Early Memory

By Andrew Thomson

An early memory of my father I cherish is going with him down to Victoria Golf Club in the late afternoons to help him practice. These sessions usually happened late in the year when Dad was back from playing overseas and preparing for the tournaments played in Australia and New Zealand over summer. When school finished around 3pm he would come and pick me up in his DB4 Aston Martin and we would head down the Nepean Highway to Cheltenham.  At the practice range he would empty out his leather bag of practice balls on the tee and I would rush down to the end of the range and collect the balls as he hit them. We’d repeat this two or three times until he was satisfied. Being down the end of the range I never had the chance to watch him practice up close and thus learn anything first-hand, but Dad was always firm that I had to teach myself the game. That said, occasionally I was allowed to ask a question or two when we were out playing together.

After these practice sessions Dad would take me into the members’ bar down next to the pro shop and I was always given a raspberry lemonade. The club members drinking there were terrific men. They loved seeing Dad wander in for a beer with them. I recall Don Lawrence, the great golf writer, there from time to time, as well as others. Jack Merrick, Victoria’s legendary secretary, often came down from his office upstairs to say hello.

Practice was important to Dad, but he did the minimum possible to keep his game in shape. It was part of his attitude to golf - the simpler the better. Excessive practice could, he thought, complicate things. If he developed a fault in his shot-making he would never rush out and try to exorcise the problem by hitting a thousand balls. Far from it. Instead he’d sit back and figure out why it was happening. Then he would go and hit a few balls – not many – to test his solution. As far as I know he never consulted anyone else to improve his game. He thought that beneath the dignity of a champion.