brettmcknightMEENIYAN Golf Club broke one of the longest-running droughts in local sporting history at the weekend when it claimed the South Gippsland District Golf Association’s Division 1 Pennant title for 2013. Not since the association was formed back in 1958 has Meeniyan managed to get its name on the Carruthers-Webb Shield, though not for want of opportunities. Through the Wonthaggi-dominated 1980s, Meeniyan had five chances to break through but finished on the wrong side of 5-4 or 4-3 victories to the strong Wonthaggi outfit, as crucial putts lipped out and other real chances went begging. All those near misses were raised and wiped away after Meeniyan’s Ryan McKnight stepped up, following three solid shots to the par 5 18th green at Korumburra last Sunday, and knocked in a two and a half metre putt to claim victory for his team and his success-starved club. Meeniyan already had three of the minimum four wins in the clubhouse at that stage; Rick Miller 3&2 over Lang Lang’s Wayne Kennedy, captain Tim Miller 2&1 over Peter Sellers and Andrew Dunne 3&2 over Col Casey. But the pressure was all on McKnight’s putter as the trademark Korumburra weather started to close in. With a big gallery on the clubhouse balcony and huddled under umbrellas around the green watching on, McKnight took time to size up the slight downhill, right-sliding putt before hitting it dead centre into the hole for a birdie and the win. Jubilant scenes followed as Meeniyan Golf Club members, family and friends swarmed around to congratulate McKnight and his victorious team mates. “Does that make up for yesterday, yes, that’s definitely better,” said a relieved McKnight. He’d lost the Meeniyan club championship to his brother Brett on Saturday by one stroke but was delighted to be the one to make history for his club on Sunday. It soon became apparent to the number one pairing of Brett McKnight and Andrew Villenger, the captain of Lang Lang, as they followed behind that the win had been secured by Meeniyan and the two agreed to call their personal match a draw. They were all square at that stage so that made the final result Meeniyan 4½ to Lang Lang 3½. For one of those walking up the hill to the 18th green with McKnight, Villenger and the final group of caddies and spectators, it was a particularly special moment. Graham Hoskin was the only man left standing from those previous tilts at the title and while he’d lowered his colours to Lang Lang’s Brad Lovitt on the day, 3&2, it took nothing away from his delight in finally achieving the ultimate in team golf locally. It’s no secret that the Meeniyan team is bolstered by its connection with the Melbourne sand-belt club Kingston-Heath, but it has been a long established connection. Captain of the team, Tim Miller, a member at both Kingston-Heath and Meeniyan, has played pennant with Meeniyan for 15 years and has regularly brought others with him to help make Meeniyan competitive in Division 1. But they had no idea this would be their year. “We didn’t even expect to make the final. In fact we’d organised our end-of-season trip away to Barnbougle (Bridport, Tasmania) for last week, not expecting we’d be there. So we went anyway,” said Miller during the presentations. Several members of the team, including Miller and Hoskin, travelled by eight-seater light plane to Tasmania for three days of golf last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; landing on a practice fairway at the course before hitting off. It was an unlikely recipe for success! “Brett and Ryan needed to be playing in Division 1 and we wanted to give them the support they needed to do so,” Graham Hoskin said. Simply getting to the final this year relied on some unexpected results in the final round and Meeniyan’s win over the previously undefeated Lang Lang was equally unexpected.