By Ian Callen
It was Saturday morning, 27 November this year at the RACV Club and the best of our community golfers were out on the course participating in the club’s premier competition.
Each of them with the intent of being a top of the leaderboard by plays end; a time when all scorecards have been scanned into the Pro Shops computer and automatically updated to the revolving leadership board on display in the members bar.
For most of the day Jan O’Brien; a mother of three who took up her golf just seven years ago, had held the number one position and when her win was finally confirmed, it was a story for the game of golf!
Particularly in Healesville, a great promotional story for the RACV and its golfing sections across the state.
After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that women were not allowed to play competition golf against the men, but now a days, everything is about “inclusiveness”, is it not?
And in the golfing world, it is all about treating every golfer as a golfer as long as the appropriate attire is worn.
For those closest to O’Brien, the win was not all that remarkable because they’d witnessed a marvelous journey that started when Jan was looking for an interest she could share with her husband Shane.
Their children had become more independent and although having never been involved in the game of golf and quite naive about how she should go about it, her husband probably gave her the best advice she could have hoped for at the time.
“Shane thought it best not to help or advise me, as he would pass on his bad habits. So I just plodded along, having a few lessons, trying to work out what the game was about and then, I found Laurie Tormey and Tony Druit who have helped me understand golf,” Jan said.
Laurie and Tony, both long time servants of the game in Healesville have been instrumental in mentoring many of our community golfers and more recently a growing list of ladies willing to learn, not only technical skills but to read the holes and improve their approach to the greens.
“We discussed the rules, the importance of the rhythm of the swing, about playing to your strengths and their wisdom has really been beneficial. And that’s not to say, it’s been easy, my handicap has gone up and down and my driving was going backward for a time” Jan said.
But for Tormey and Druit, they must feel a great sense of satisfaction, especially when it all started to click for their rookie, watching on as her confidence grew to where Jan is today with “three hole in ones” under her belt.
Jan laughs and said, “You might get away with saying the first was a fluke, but not the other two – they were good shots.”
The first came at the Cape Schanck 16th, the second at Healesville’s 16th last year and the most recent the 4th, “The Gully” at Healesville just last month.
So I had to ask, “When playing against the men Jan, did you ever feel intimidated or was it fortunate that you had your mentors to ease you into the men’s competition?”
“Interesting question, I’ve worked in a male dominated industry all my life so I wasn’t necessarily intimidated but I did feel the pressure of not playing to what I thought was an acceptable standard for that comp day. Laurie and Tony were of course great, but my personal expectation, did put a level of pressure on me. Thinking back, it was ridiculous really and it wasn’t only me, Lyn Phillips also played and we did receive some negative comments but we weren’t offended. We just put it down to some men feeling their space was being invaded and recognised they needed time to accept change, the majority were fabulous. I think we added an extra dimension to the day in some respects, it provided a subject to talk about either positive or negative and we don’t feel any angst toward us at all nowadays,” Jan explained
For Jan the most difficult aspect of golf was overcoming her own ego, “The harder I tried, the worse I became, it was very humbling and still is, although I have now accepted my limitations. Initially it was hard for me to be hopeless, especially in a group with Shane and his friends who are big hitters. But as I accepted my standard, my golf improved and now the best part of my play according to Laurie and Tony is my short game. I still want to work hard on my approach shots. I am amazed sometimes watching on as Laurie and Tony place an approach within inches of the hole. I can’t do that, but I am working on it,” Jan said.