I started the Dunsborough Lakes Pro-Am back in 2016 and our 2019 tournament received the Pro-Am of the Year award at the WA Golf Industry awards back in June. That puts us on the map. We’ve got a very good course superintendent and we’re getting lots of people coming to play our wonderful golf course.
When they announced that we’d won Pro-Am of the Year I had to make out that I didn’t know anything about it because they hadn’t yet shown the interview I’d done earlier in Perth. I had to come back to Dunsborough and not tell anybody; I couldn’t even tell my wife. Everyone here got quite a surprise.
I came up with the format for the pro-am back in the 1990s when I was at Busselton Golf Club. I had Kel Nagle and Dan Cullen, Billy Dunk and Ted Ball, I had them all playing in a tournament at the Busselton Golf Club and it was quite a big hit.
I used the same format at Dunsborough. We have Gold, Silver and Bronze sections and the amateurs pay a certain amount to be in each section. We had 33 teams – two of which were sponsors teams – and my son Marty and I came up with the idea that we would pay everybody. We only needed 33 pros to play so instead of it being a $12,000 tournament where the prize money stops at the person who comes 18th, we took it up to the 33. Everyone from 19th onwards received $200. That’s probably the first time these pros have played in an event where everyone got paid.
I grew up in Perth and lived close to the Cottesloe Golf Course in Swanbourne and I became a caddy as an 8-year-old kid. I was wandering around there one day, a fella told me to carry his bag for him and when we got back to where I’d picked him up he gave me three shillings. I thought this was the start of a big career for me and I became a caddy.
In 1952 there was a big tournament held at Cottesloe called the Mobilco and the week after was the Australian Open at Lake Karrinyup. The Slazenger guy came to the Cottesloe Golf Course with Norman von Nida and asked, ‘Who is the best caddy here?’ I stepped forward and said I was the best caddy and Norman said, ‘Well I’m the best player so we’ll get along pretty well.’ I was 13 at that time and he went on to win the Australian Open. From that day forward I was only going to be one thing; a golf professional.
I caddied for Norman again when they came to Perth to play the Americans in The Lakes International Cup in 1954. He played Tommy Bolt and that was the day when they had a fight in the locker room. He was a tempestuous little prick. He didn’t back down to Bolt; he was ready to take him on.
I attended Perth Modern School which was a scholarship school and when I told the sportsmaster I wouldn’t be at school because I was caddying for Norman von Nida he asked what business I had playing golf. He took me to his golf course, Nedlands Golf Club, and told me to show him how good I was. At one point I made four birdies in a row. He never gave me a hard time after that.
I couldn’t join the Cottesloe Golf Club until I was 15 so when I turned 15 I finished school and joined Cottesloe. My first handicap was 6 and the next year when I was 16 I won the WA State Amateur Championship. The year after that in 1956 Gary Player came to Perth to play in the Western Australia Open as a 20-year-old and I finished runner-up to him. No one had ever heard of Gary at that stage but after that tournament in Perth he went off to Melbourne and won the Ampol Tournament at Yarra Yarra. He got £5,000 for winning that and then went back to South Africa and married Vivienne.
When I went to the New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney to do my traineeship Norman von Nida would use the course for his golfing activities. He used to bring Gary to the course so I would play with the two of them regularly during that three-year time I had doing my traineeship. I got to know Gary very well.
I became a member of the PGA in 1960 and in 1961 I tried to qualify for the Wills Classic. I missed the cut by one at Newcastle so I caddied for Gary instead and he won the tournament. I got £100 from Gary for caddying. Billy Dunk came sixth in the tournament and got £105.
The Australian Open was played again in Western Australia in 1960 and it was followed by the PGA of Australia Championship being played in Perth. I got to the semi-finals and who do you think I played in the semi-final? Norman von Nida. He was friendly, but he didn’t want me to beat him.
I had quite a bit to do with Graham Marsh and Terry Gale when they were coming through their late amateur years into the pro ranks. I used to help them with their short game. Terry comes from a country town called Yelbeni and he was a very talented boy. He went to Scotch College here in Perth, became captain of the college and was a very talented sportsman. He was a good tennis player and he was on the verge of playing state cricket for Western Australia.
Terry didn’t turn professional until 1976 and we’d been working on his short game prior to him going off to play in his first tournaments. At the time John Hadley and I were golf consultants for TAA and I was able to do a deal with TAA to get Terry to do exhibition matches with me through Western Australia. We played 39 towns and Terry would get an airfare for every exhibition he played.
John Hadley and I were business partners and we ran the Wembley Golf Course together. When we finished in 1982 John went off to work with Bob Tuohy on the tournaments and I took over at another big public course in Perth called Hillview. We built another nine holes there to take it up to 27 holes and it became a very successful public golf course.
I moved down to Dunsborough in 1989 to live down in the south-west and joined the Busselton Golf Club because at that time the Dunsborough Lakes Golf Club didn’t exist. I became a member at Busselton and pretty soon they wanted gear and lessons so I ended up with a contract to be the golf pro with a 10-year lease and a five-year option.
Eventually my golf pro son Marty – who became a member of the PGA back in 1991 when he was just 20 years old – took over for me and I went to China in 1995 and taught golf in China for 17 years.
Lyndsay Stephen I were recently made the first Life Members of Dunsborough Lakes in the club’s 25-year history. It’s another honour in golf for which I am very grateful and proud.