I am delighted to see so many Club Reps and members of our Association here this evening and I should like to offer a warm welcome to you all, in particular to John Hirst the Devon Golf Operations Manager. John is a good friend to the Association and has been an invaluable source of support in the process of our IT and handicapping developments. Gentlemen, welcome to Tavistock Golf Club.
It does not seem twelve months ago that I took over the role of DMVGA Captain from Stuart McKerrel of Dainton Park, the time has moved so quickly. As a Devonshire man, to represent the Veteran members of my county has given me great pleasure and satisfaction. I am immensely proud to have been able to Captain the Association this year. It matters little that we are not the county elite, we offer more than that, we provide the spirit, the enthusiasm and the camaraderie that is veterans’ golf in Devon. At every event and at every competition we meet and greet old friends from around the county, that is the hallmark of who we are and what we do.
During the year I have had the pleasure of being invited to join with several of our Clubs’ Vets and Seniors in their Open events and to play some courses I have not previously visited. So particular thanks to Tony Messenger at Bigbury, David Hough at Teign Valley and Malcolm Tester at Teignmouth. I have had invitations to join Derek Mott at Libbaton and Alan Malton at Yelverton both of which I have so far been unable to take up. Although Tavistock is my home Club I live in Yelverton and should have played there yesterday, but circumstances developed within the Association and I was not able to take up Alan’s offer. I will try to do so before the end of the year.
We have said that as an Association we would look to support Anniversary and Special events at clubs and so entered two DMVGA pairs in The Warren’s Anniversary in May. We were made very welcome and had a splendid day there as well as a successful one. We were delighted to be able to support the club members in their anniversary event. If you have a particular event coming up please let us know and we will be there with you on the day.
The DMVGA is a unique organisation. We have rightly been called the voice of seniors golf in Devon and I would suggest there is no other County organisation comparable to ours in the country. This year I have spoken with golfers and golf clubs from across the country and no county appears offer the grass roots seniors competition we offer. People can not believe the structure and organisation we have in Devon, 1600 members from 40 different Golf Clubs. The Association has been in existence for 46 years with our prime competition, the inter-club knockout Emerton Court Trophy, being introduced in 1975.
Who can say that Veterans golf is not competitive. Anyone who saw this year’s Emerton Court final between Royal North Devon and Dartmouth, played at Churston Golf Club last month will have seen a classic contest. A team of low handicappers against a team with a high / low split. It was played with great intensity but in the spirit that only senior golfers can bring to a competition. With the other four matches finished and score tied at 2 games each it was finally won on the 18th green by Dartmouth, a fitting climax to a competition that began with the draw in early January.
This evening we have just recognised the winners of our individual events and the team competitions played throughout the year, so I’ll move onto our match play events. However, before I do a reminder that the postponed Spring Meeting is being played at Thurlestone on 26th October.
Anyway, to the matches where I am sad to report we did not fare so well.
In the Cornwall game we had high hopes of victory for the third year running following a tied result at Launceston only for us to be comprehensively beaten the following week at Stover. One never like losing to the Cornish.
We play Kent at home one year and away the next, the matches usually going with the home team, but not this year when we were comfortably beaten at Churston. Why at Churston? Well it is was the home Club of Gordon Emerton Court a fouding father of the DMVGA. Why Kent? In his later years Gordon moved to Kent and in 1995, at age of 89, set up the Veteran Golfers of Kent Association. The first inter-counties match was played, at Churston, on 20th May 1999. At the age of 93 Gordon Emerton-Court played representing his adopted county, Kent.
So, two matches played and two lost, not a good start. The team selection was solid so blame the Captain for poorly motivating the Devon team.
Next up were the Devon Lady Vets at Okehampton. Here Peter Stuckey kindly Captained the team for me that day with my wife, being a non golfer, reluctant to let her husband dine with another woman on their wedding anniversary. I am delighted to say that not withstanding the handicap differentials and the variety of courtesy shots claimed by the ladies the match was won by the men. Thank you Peter, I had total faith in your leadership.
Our last match, against the Devon Juniors, fell victim to the rain which has plagued much of the season and will now be played at Tavistock during the late October half term.
One of my aims has been golf for all in that I have wanted to create more opportunity for our members to play in our competitions. We know that within our 1600 members a large proportion will have joined just to play Emerton Court, but that still leaves a significant number wishing to play in our Presidents Salvers, Western Morning News events etc. We also know that our members prefer the team events where we are consistently oversubscribed rather than the individual Spring, Summer and Autumn meetings which, although supported by healthy numbers, are never quite so popular. It could be that we are victims of our Association’s progress in that they are now all qualifying events thanks to our recognition as a Qualifying Association for handicap purposes. Well gentlemen, I’ve news for you, from next season, at the request of Devon Golf and in line with CONGU requirements, all our Canada Cup type events will also be for possible handicap adjustment.
Although we can not squeeze more people into our existing team events, we can provide more events for members to play in. After the very successful trial at Tavistock in March, and here I am delighted that many of our Club Reps took part in it, we have moved to a Winter Series which our Secretary Bob Small has expanded and developed. Originally conceived as 3 Ball Canada Cup format with all scores to count we felt that asking players to play Winter qualifying competitions might dissuade them from taking part. So with the four events now being Better Ball competitions, the support from our Clubs has been excellent with all 30 team places taken. Other competitions and events have been and will continue to be considered as we strive to provide the best playing opportunities for our members.
The Emerton Court competition continues to throw up issues which have kept the Sub-Committee busy. One of the problems which will not go away is the ever increasing squeeze for playing time on Club courses. Trying to find suitable Emerton Court dates is becoming more and more problematic. An hour’s tee time reservation is not too difficult to find but to combine that with after match dining facilities is not always possible and if Clubs are to gain anything from the day then the post match meal has to be part of the package.
We also have the potential problems thrown up by CONGU Changes 2018, specifically the ‘Retirement’ of club handicaps (They do choose words carefully, the ‘C’ category handicap was put in last year for ‘declining golfers’, now they have Retired us)…retired to be replaced by Category 5 and 6 with a new maximum competition handicap of 54. That could have interesting consequences for our Emerton Court competition.
These issues are addressed by proposals later in the Agenda.
One of the continued successes this year has been the Sub-Committee which has been the vanguard of much of the progress of the Association. To some extent it had made the work of the Executive Committee redundant, but that is changing. We no longer carry passengers on Committee, every position will have a specific role and area to develop for the benefit of our members. I believe as a Committee we should be more accessible and listen to what our members want, what you want from the Association. As Club Reps you will know the importance of your role in the process and the planned Reps meetings will help to develop this.
We have greatly increased our use of IT this year under the stewardship of Adrian Granville-Smith, encouraged by Secretary Bob. Competition results are now fed directly into the computer and, if a qualifying competition, through Intelligent Golf back to our Clubs. We are considering ways to improve registration into competitions by our Club Reps using on-line registration and possibly banking. Our website, managed by Adrian, has proved a major source of information for our members and has now been ‘visited’ 97,000 times.
We have successfully launched our new DMVGA logo and upgraded our clothing range. The new tie, a more updated design, is proving extremely popular with our members. There will be more additions to ‘Brand DMVGA’ appearing next season.
We have strengthened our ties with Devon Golf and have been grateful for the help and support John Hirst has given us in the development of our IT work. That we can access Intelligent Golf from competition venues around the county is down to John enabling us to use the Devon Golf software to achieve it. Now, with our own touch screen computer system we can feed results directly to England Golf and onto our Clubs. We are well ahead of the game.
I expected to be thanking Bob Small our Secretary for the work he has put into developing the Association as he stood down from the role at today’s AGM. Up until a few days ago that was going to happen but, as many of you will know, circumstances have changed and Bob remains at the helm of the DMVGA for another twelve months. Bob has been an outstanding servant of the Association and I am delighted he remains as our Secretary.
So, despite the team results, the weather, the inevitable Emerton Court queries and rules challenges, the concerns about competition attendance, increasing costs of golf courses, the recent problem within our organisation, and a second new knee, it has been a great year and one I would not have missed for the world.
Thank you gentlemen for your support and encouragement throughout the year, and thank you to the DMVGA Committee for your friendship, tolerance and understanding. It will be with a degree of reluctance that I hand over my chain of office to my Vice Captain, Harvie Taylor of Stover Golf Club, at the end of this evening’s AGM. I’ve been on a great journey this year.