Amateur diary: Preparing to return to the U.S.

We used to say on the team that it was a cold day when you could see your own breath when teeing off, or that it’s windy when the pin bends over during gusts. The girls would say that it was really wet and rainy when you could watch the water dripping down your nose when you would bend over to putt. So what does one say when all of these phenomena are witnessed at the same time? “Welcome to Melbourne winter golf!”

I have spent the last eight days getting re-acquainted with both my golf game and the members of my golf club. Golf back here is a little different when you’re a member of a golf club like mine. Like the bar Cheers, Victoria Golf Club, for me, also is a place where ‘everyone knows your name.’ When I’m back home, I play with the ladies on Tuesday and Friday mornings, and I must say that despite the age gap, there is no trade-off for fun.

Amateur diary

Alison Whitaker, 24, will file a weekly diary on Golfweek.com to give you an insider’s view of life during her transition from college to professional golf.

photo

Alison Whitaker with the Victoria Golf Club Championship trophy.

When I started playing golf at the club at 14, I was the youngest junior girl to be accepted as a member, and as a result I spent a lot of my time playing with women that were considerably older than me. This was the case for most junior girl golfers across the globe at the time. But now, ten years later, I have a better understanding of how my own golf and character benefitted from their influence. I somehow (I have no idea how this happened) to get accepted into the naughty “older” women group. You know, the ones that cuss after their bad shots and hold naughty fancy dress parties? For some parents, the thought of their kids learning “unseemly” sayings from grey-haired bandits at the golf club may prove to be somewhat challenging, but in my case, it taught me that I could have just as much fun with women that were 50-60 years my senior as I could with someone my own age. At the tender age of 13, these women taught me a lesson that will serve me throughout the rest of my life: Don’t judge a book by its crinkles!

This past week, I was lucky enough to be able to play in my club championship. For some people in my golfing position, this tournament might seem less important than other pro and amateur events in the season, but for me, I think it’s almost the exact opposite. Victoria Golf Club has quite a history and member portfolio. Peter Thompson and Geoff Ogilvy both call the club their home, and will be proud to once again share its fairways, greens and bars with the likes of Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Camilo Villegas at the Australian Masters this coming December.

So our week-long championship began, and before long I found myself playing in the final against Sue Wooster, the recently-crowned New South Wales State Amateur Champion. Since I am the reigning Victorian State Amateur Champion, and New South Wales and Victoria hold a fierce rivalry comparable to that between Duke and UNC, the running joke around the club was that it was a showdown between the states. Given the rain, 20 mph wind gusts and temperatures near zero, both Sue and I put on a decent showing for the 40 or so supporters that braved the weather to come watch the 36-hole final. After 32 holes, I found myself scraping through the elements to win the Championship trophy, 6 and 4. After the completion of the golf, all the members headed back to the clubhouse for the championship party thrown by the club committee. Between you and me, I think the offer of free drinks and nibblies in the warm, toasty clubhouse may have given the half-frozen supporters some added motivation to come and watch Sue and me battle it out on the course.

The remainder of my week was dedicated to formulating an application for a U.S. Visa. The U.S. Embassy in Melbourne is perhaps one of the most intimidating buildings I ever have come across, and attention to detail regarding Visa applications is absolutely essential. Having said that, I not only gathered the required documents, but also took a packet of my favorite Aussie Lamingtons to the interview in the hopes that the combination of both might just get my application approved. Thankfully, the process went smoothly and, much to the potential dismay of my coach Dan Brooks, I will be allowed to re-enter the country for at least another five years.

I have four days before my flight back to the United States, and I have now entered the sweet and sad period where I have to take care of the functional jobs of a trip back Down Under: Haircut, done; dentist check-up, cleared (thankfully); eyelashes tinte,- check; Baywatch-themed dance-off with my sister and friend Jac G, I’ll keep you posted after the weekend.

There is a sentiment expressed so beautifully in a poem written by Australian A.D. Hope that sums up the emotion that I always feel at this stage of the journey between my homeland and my baseland: “And in leaving, she is also coming home.”

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