CHAMPIONSHIP AIM: Riverside club champion Ashley Whitehouse is in contention for his fifth Murray Darling Golf Association Club Championship this weekend. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

By MITCH RODD

SUNRAYSIA’S supreme talents of the golf course hope to lay claim to being the best of the best in this weekend’s District Championships.

The top golfers from the Murray Darling Golf Association (MDGA) clubs will come to together at Coomealla Golf Club to compete over 36 holes to decide the number one men’s and women’s player.

The champion will get their hands on the prestigious Shane Doherty Cup and Wilma Bowring Trophy, both named after legends on the local golfing circuit.

All male and female club champions and Open event winners from around the district are eligible to compete.

Both the men’s and ladies’ fields will be buoyed from last week’s success at the Melbourne Country Week Golf Championships.

The men’s side went undefeated across the week to take out the Division Two title and earn promotion into Division One in 2019. The women’s side also took the honours in their division and have earned promotion to Division Two next year.

Greg Rhodes is normally a favourite for any golf tournament he enters, however the star veteran will soon be in Japan to compete in the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) Senior Championship at the Tom Watson Golf Course in Miyazaki, Japan, ruling him out of contention.

There is, however, still no shortage of high quality contenders for the Shane Doherty Cup. Riverside Club Champion Ashley Whitehouse has four District Championships to his name and has an eye on a potential fifth this weekend. Other quality golfers in the mix include Coomealla club champion Justin McPhee, Mildura club champion Cameron Stewart and Red Cliffs club champion David Fillipi.

Whitehouse, INSET, said he had been competing for Sunraysia at Country Week for over three decades, and it was the first time he recalled the team not dropping a game.

“We went undefeated for the week which was fantastic. I think we halved one game but won all the others,” he said.

“Next year we’ll be up against teams like Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong, who have a lot of quality guys who just play golf.

“I didn’t lose a match across the week. I’ve been putting in some extra work with Mike McKenzie down the Sunraysia Golf Range which I think helps.”

Whitehouse hopes to make it five ‘Champion of Champions’ titles this weekend, but said there are a number of players who will be well in contention.

“I reckon there’s about half a dozen guys who’ll be right up there. Cam Stewart has been playing well, Justin McPhee is a good golfer and Mark Hann is another of the Coomy members who has been playing well,” he said.

“You’ve got to win an Open or Club Championship to make it into the District Championships so it really is the best players over the year taking part.

“It makes it more special being the Shane Doherty Cup. He was such a great influence for golf in Sunraysia for a long time, and I don’t think anyone will ever have the same impact that he did.”

The Coomealla Golf Club will have a trio of female stars hoping their home course knowledge will work to their advantage.

Sue Laird, Lee Bottomley and Nia Whittle will all compete on their home turf, and they will be joined by a bevy of strong players including Broken Hill’s Jenny Stephenson, Riverside’s Lisa Garioch, Red Cliffs’ Sue Johns and Mildura young gun Madeline Jukes.

Nia and Lee were both members of the victorious Ladies’ Country Week team and while they hope to play well, they admitted they have some tough competition.

“It is very much an advantage to be at Coomealla,” Nia said.

“We’re all pretty close together (Lee, Sue and I), we’ll see what happens.

“We played pretty well down with the Country Week team in Melbourne and it was absolutely fantastic, a great experience,” Lee said.

“I think we will have a little bit of a home course advantage, but the others would come out and play here once a month as well.

“It’s a pretty open field but I would imagine Sue and Jenny would be right up there as early favourites.”

As well as the Shane Doherty Cup and Wilma Bowring Trophy, also on offer are trophies in the Junior and Veterans categories, the Sunraysia Shield, won by the club with the best three scratch scores over 36 holes, and the Club Teams Challenge, in which any combination of six men and ladies nominate their best four nett scores for each day.

Players are set to tee off from 7.30am tomorrow.