By Glenn Sullivan
SHOOTING your age is a feat that is rarely achieved in golf but legendary local golfer Ian ‘Slugger’ Sullivan was always going to do it at some stage.
Not only did he shoot his age on Saturday but he smashed it by four strokes.
Slugger has dominated local golf in South Gippsland for years.
From the late 1950s to the mid-80s, he was the one to beat in all major Wonthaggi and South Gippsland events, and he was rarely beaten.
In 1955, Ian won the Wonthaggi B Grade club championship as a 16 year old and followed up just two years later to win his first open championship at the club.
Some 24 years later, at the age of 42, Slugger claimed his 16th and final club championship at Wonthaggi.
As well as dominating at Wonthaggi, he had a stronghold on all South Gippsland titles.
He won the first of his South Gippsland titles on the Cowes golf course in 1959 and claimed his 16th and final district singles title some 26 years later in 1985.
In addition, he won many other district foursomes and four-ball championships with his name on each trophy many times during that period.
Ian has achieved just about all there is to achieve in golf.
In 1969 he was playing off a handicap of plus 2 and claiming many local course records.
He didn’t score his first hole-in-one until around the age of 50 but then followed that up with another very soon afterwards.
So for the past 25 years Slugger has just played socially with his mates each Saturday morning.
He was disappointed when his handicap went back out to 10 after 50-plus years in single digits not so long ago.
His mates were more devastated though because it meant that it was going to be easier for him to take their money on a Saturday morning.
He has still been able to regularly score in the 70s and has been creeping closer and closer to shooting his age for years now.
On Saturday morning the round started as normal.
A drive and a three wood up the first, a chip on and two putts to claim the two stableford points; a par on the second and another on the third to have him even with the card, but already with eight stableford points. It was probably a standard round until the seventh.
With the wind behind him his drive flirted with the pines but missed the lot and was nicely placed. His three-wood dropped just short and the chip was up nice and close to set up a birdy putt.
Another birdie on the eighth and a par on the ninth saw him out in a one over 36.
It was the back nine where he really fired up.
The wind was from the west so the 10th and 11th were straight into it. Now Slugger turned 76 in September and most players his age would be more than happy to be putting for par given the task of getting to the green. Slugger chipped on to the 10th for three and holed his birdie putt.
On the 11th, into the wind, he timed the driver to perfection and then pulled out the three wood for his second.
It sailed straight onto the green to set up an eagle putt. The eagle was missed but an easy birdie followed and now Slugger was one under the card.
Another birdie on the par 3 13th and his score was starting to look like something that Adam Scott might have.
A rare five on the 14th was followed with a couple of pars and then a four on the par 3 17th saw Slugger standing on the 18th tee at even par. At this stage the money was safe and his mates were barracking for a strong finish to the round.
His drive up the 18th landed on a bare sandy patch.
He could have dropped but chose to play it and just creamed the three-wood to have Darrel Wilson exclaim that it was the best shot he’d ever seen.
A chip on and two putts saw him walk away with his eighth par for the round, to go with his five birdies and five bogeys, for an even par 72.
The back nine was one under the card and he amassed 47 stableford points.
With his 11 handicap the net score of 61 will be the lowest on the Wonthaggi course for a while and pushes him closer to his dream of getting his handicap back into single digits.
Speaking afterwards, a delighted Sullivan said it was something he’d been trying to achieve for quite a while.
“Danny Crellin said to me earlier in the year that I’d beat my age this year but it was getting a bit late in the piece so the pressure was on me.
“I’m still alright for distance but in recent times I’ve been hitting off the tee with a three wood. I haven’t been able to hit the new drivers all that consistently.
“But I did a bit of a job for a friend of mine and he gave me a new driver.
“I’ve been getting quite a bit more distance with that and I can usually hit it pretty well.”
It must have done the trick.
As pleased as Ian was to achieve the feat, he also had the last laugh on regular playing partner John Crellin, happily revealing he’d only lost one shot off his handicap, down to 10.
“We’ll see about that. I’m going to see the handicapper,” said Crellin.