By Russell Bennett
Paul Wheeler has been intertwined with the Garfield Golf Club since he moved to Tynong in 1976.
His first season at the course was 1977, and he’s been involved there ever since.
So, a return to the greens and local fairways for local players after the easing of some Covid-19 restrictions this week means the world to him.
Paul turns 89 in July and hasn’t played for a while now. He stopped playing, he estimates, around 20 years ago when his wife got sick.
She didn’t drive, and he needed a shoulder operation if he was to continue playing, so he opted to give the playing side of things away.
But that’s when his second golfing life really took off – in the administration side of the sport.
Not only is he a Garfield life member, but Paul is also a life member of West Gippsland golf and in 2000 was awarded the prestigious Australian Sports Medal by the Federal Government.
Of course, the return to the game won’t be fully complete until players can once again socialise in the clubhouse – Paul’s specialty these days – but as of first thing this morning (Wednesday), the game is back.
“I don’t play anymore, but I’m there at the club every week and I know all the ins and outs and the thoughts of the members,” he told the Gazette.
“They’ve all kept together on Facebook through this so they haven’t lost contact, and as far as I’m concerned golf and sports like it are a must in everyone’s lives.
“If you don’t have this chance for relaxation at the end of the working week, you’re in trouble for the next week.
“Even people who’re retired still look forward to getting a game in – and some play two, three times a week.
“But of course we must follow the guidelines of what the (State) government has put in place – and Golf Australia’s too – and people must have these on-hand when they start off again.
“We have a book-in system that’s used throughout West Gippsland, and this will be used to help manage tee-off times to prevent any groups gathering at the first tee.”
Paul explained just how crucial it is for golfers, locally, to observe the restrictions still in place.
“I think the main thing now is for the players and staff to keep note of the new rules – what to do with the pins, the bunkers, things like this.”
As part of bringing Victoria out of the stage three coronavirus lockdown, Premier Daniel Andrews announced a return for golf and certain other recreational activities from midnight on Tuesday night.
In a statement on the Golf Australia website, chairman Andrew Newbold said he was thrilled to see Victorians return to the sport.
“We really appreciate the patience our clubs and players have shown in these trying times,” Newbold said.
“It’s going to be exciting for all to get back on course or to your favourite facility, but we plead with all to follow distancing and hygiene guidelines in place.
“If they’re broken, we face a return to no golf and that’s clearly something we’d all like to avoid.”
While most Victorian golf courses are back up and running, clubhouses remain closed for now and tee-off times should be booked in advance.