80-year-old Keith Ellem in front of the Westlawn course where he recently shot a 1-under round of 34.
80-year-old Keith Ellem in front of the Westlawn course where he recently shot a 1-under round of 34. Adam Hourigan

Golf record is par for the course

FOR a man who once held the Westlawn Golf Course record and set the First Grade cricket wicket-taking benchmark in his heyday, Keith Ellem’s 1-under par round of 34 may not seem a big deal.

Considering his family has a famous local ground named after it, and Ellem sent down the first ever delivery on McKittrick Park’s new turf wicket, the round may seem even less of note.

Did I mention he once held the course record at the Westlawn club, a 5-under round of 30?

But for Ellem, Saturday’s achievement is up with his best.

It’s not often 80-year-old golfers play that well. He was on target to achieve the rare feat of breaking his age.

“It was an unlucky 34,” laughed Ellem, whose handicap is still a barely believable 8.

“I had three birdie putts that lipped out.

“I’m happy to be 80 and still playing off single figures.”

More than 60 years since first picking up a club, Ellem proves that age is no reason to let your golf game go off course.

His career-best handicap of 5 was reached when he was 70.

“I have gradually extended out (my handicap),” Ellem said.

“If I don’t do any worse in the next 10 years I’ll be happy.

“I just enjoy the game.”

Ellem has served as Westlawn Golf Club president for the past five years – after joining two years earlier – and continues to add to an impressive sporting pedigree.

His other career highlights include spending more than half a century playing in top level competitions, and ‘winning my fair share of events’ along the way.

“I have had a wonderful association with the game over the years,” he said.

“The first year I played I managed to get my handicap down to 16.

“I have been in A-grade ever since.”

Ellem admits he is not likely to near his best round on Westlawn – a 30 which was good enough for a then-record – but is happy to fit in games as often as he likes.

“It suits me all around,” he laughed. “But it’s a bit like that song You Don’t Get Around Much Any More.”

In 1977 Ellem took part in a golfathon – 55 holes played in one day to raise more than $1000 for a local charity.

“When I started we used hickory shaft clubs. When they started to ease into steel shaft it became a bit of a novelty.”

“I remember when they started to come out. I remember thinking that you would have to be pretty unfit to need to use one.”

“We used to get disciplined by the bloke we were caddying for if we didn’t keep our eye on the ball.”

“They (the golfers) would say to me ‘if you can’t find it we don’t get paid’. It was a different world in those days.”

“It helped that you didn’t need to lug your clubs around but exercise is a big part of golf.”

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