By MITCH RODD
“ABOUT 5000 rounds and about 20,000 pots…four pots per round!”
George Matotek summed up 60 years of golf at Riverside Golf Club in his own succinct manner.
The 87-year-old is part of the fabric at the picturesque club, having first signed up as a member in 1958, with the evergreen and ever keen sportsman loved and respected by all at the club.
On the day Mildura Weekly visited George at the club house, he could barely walk three steps before being stopped for congratulatory well wishes and handshakes.
Regular golfers can spot George playing with his regular group of four – alongside Kevin Challis, Rob Arnold and Tom Wilkinson – each Wednesday from midday.
“Choosing to play golf was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made,” George said. “The mateship and the friendliness of the Riverside Golf Club has been what’s kept me coming back for years.”
George, however, has certainly been no mug at the game, with the former club captain working with local pro ‘Snow’ Scheele to get his handicap down to single figures.
He lays claim to having made four hole-in-ones at the club, and “caused an upset” against highly fancied golfers to claim the Riverside A Grade Club Championship in 1972.
That year the Championship was held at the Mildura Golf Club due to the home course being flooded out.
As well as keeping the bartenders busy across the years, George has been a regular supporter and volunteer at the club, including spending two summers installing a state-of-the-art sprinkler system.
George was a First Division cricketer and a keen tennis player, but decided at age 27 that golf was a wiser sport to take up in the long-term.
“I had a fruit block which backed onto the sixth hole at Riverside. I’ve been in town now for over 30 years, but that’s how I first joined the club,” he said.
“I wouldn’t have thought I’d still be playing at 87.
“I used to play a lot of A Grade cricket and tennis, but I decided to take up golf. Tennis would leave my back a bit sore and I never had any problems with golf, and I knew golf was a sport I could play once I got older.”
George has played in a number of fours over the years, and each time they play a single dollar coin is put up as the prize for winning.
“It’s a special tradition that has been part of every time I’ve played,” he said. “To me, winning that dollar is more important and means more than any trophy.”
While George still moves reasonably freely, he admitted “going halves” in a golf kart with Kevin Challis was a smart investment, as it has “made it much easier for us to get around now”.
Riverside Golf Club holds a special place in George’s heart, and the feeling is reciprocated tenfold.