IT started out as having some fun with old school friends on the golf course.
But since trading in the hockey stick for a golf club, Camperdown Golf Club member Donna Conheady has gone from strength to strength.
The 40 year-old is one of the newer faces at the club, part of an influx of about a dozen members in the past couple of years, including her friends Tracey Baker, Natasha Swayn and Gabby Gill.
In 2013, she was part of the runner-up team in the Astrid Holm Cup, along with Baker, Swayn and Terang-based Michelle Beasley – another friend from her school days – and in 2014 finished runner-up in the club’s A grade ladies championship to Terri Sinnott and was part of the drought-breaking pennant win against Warrnambool in the division two final.
“It was the first pennant flag that Camperdown Golf Club has won in 17 years,” Conheady said.
“It was really funny playing with Sue Pollock who’s been playing for – I think she said 20-odd years – and it was her first pennant flag.
“(She was) so excited and she said to me, ‘Do you realise how hard these are to get?’, so I was really lucky to be part of that in my first year of golf.”
Playing pennant and team competitions has been a throwback to familiar ground for Conheady, who played hockey for 33 years, including two years of state hockey, and swapped the stick for a tennis racquet during summer.
Tennis elbow forced her to reconsider her sporting pursuits, opening the door to try her hand at golf.
Although she loves returning to the team aspect, Conheady said the big lure of golf was the individual challenge.
“The thing that hooks you is you’re trying to improve all the time,” she said.
“For someone like me who’s played team sports all my life – I’ve never played an individual sport as such – the battle to play your handicap or beat your handicap is probably the most motivation.”
For an individual sport, there has been a strong group involvement at the club and Conheady said it was another reason playing at the idyllic Lakes Sporting Complex was so enjoyable.
“I certainly love the friends and the social side – the ladies are lovely,” she said.
“They’re very accommodating and a lot of the older ones are like your surrogate mums, almost.
“Whether it be sharing recipes or just different advice and just the support network, too – they’re really supportive, the ladies.
“All the members have been very accommodating and very welcoming and full of knowledge, full of advice.”
While the seasoned members have shared their knowledge of the sport and its etiquette, Conheady said the fresh faces liked to think they had been able to bring something to the table, too.
“We’ve probably brought them up to date – we have a Facebook page now … Gabby has been in charge of that,” she said.
“They were very wary of it at the start … but it’s lovely. Even just to share photos of different ones on the course.
“Whilst they’ve taught us a few things – well, maybe we might’ve imparted a bit of our knowledge (too).”
Camperdown Golf Club ladies’ president Noelene Sadler said the club’s younger members, aged in their mid-to-late-thirties, who had joined over the past couple of years had been a welcome addition.
“We’ve had a very successful year,” she said.
“Actually, the club in general has had a very good year, because the men have had a few new members (as well).
“Our ladies have travelled and had some good success, won some trophies and been runners-up in other tournaments.
“They always come home with something, even if it’s a raffle win.
“We won a pennant flag, we’ve got good numbers in our local special events and good numbers on a Wednesday (ladies’ day).”
Sadler said the influx of new members had been welcomed by the club, with membership numbers “stagnant” beforehand.
“We were holding our numbers but we weren’t increasing and we never had the numbers playing on a Wednesday (that we do now),” she said.
“This year, we’ve probably averaged between 15 to 20 players on a Wednesday (and) we’ve got some ladies playing in the Saturday competition.”
Sadler said the club was grateful for the efforts of Colac-based Vicki Thomas, formerly of Thirteenth Beach Golf Club, who has coached at Camperdown for the past couple of years.
“She’s a real asset for our club,” Sadler said.