Date: March 06, 2013
Author: Martin Blake / Golf Australia

Preview: Riversdale Cup tradition continues

Deep in the bowels of the lovely clubhouse at Riversdale Golf Club in the eastern Melbourne suburb of Mt Waverley you can find the minutes of a meeting held on 20, February, 1896. The folk of what was then Surrey Hills Golf Club had formed a club four years earlier in 1892, playing a nine-hole course through the cow paddocks near the Mont Albert railway station. “Quite frankly, the original links were terrible,&apos&apos says John Boundy, Riversdale&aposs archivist and also a proud club member. “They were playing on cow paddocks, including the cow pats that were never cleared. They didn&apost have a mower, they didn&apost have a roller. They employed a guy at five shillings a week to put jam tins on mounds and set up the tees, and they had nine holes.&apos&apos A local rule relieved the players of the cow pat problem, but plainly, they needed something to set the club apart. The minutes of that 1896 meeting show that they decided to “hold a tournament on dates to be fixed&apos&apos, and here was the solution. In May of that same year, the legend of the Riversdale Cup was born, initially as the Surrey Hills Gentlemen&aposs Championship, and won by ML Anderson, the reigning champion of the Melbourne Golf Club. More than 50 players from various clubs took part, and the event took off. It became the Riversdale Cup soon after the Riversdale Golf Club was formed in 1909 on leased land in East Camberwell, and still a few years before the current site was purchased in the 1920s. Nearly 120 years on from those humble beginnings, the Riversdale Cup is unequivocally one of the best amateur golf tournaments in the world. This week it will host players from all over the globe and for the first time, the men&aposs and women&aposs events are being held concurrently, the women&aposs tournament having been added in 1959. The tournament, over 72 holes of strokeplay beginning on Thursday, is one of the national selection tournaments, which include the Australian Amateur title and the Lake Macquarie Amateur in New South Wales. The best players need to turn up and they want to play the Riversdale Cup. It boasts a roll call of winners that tells its own story. Robert Allenby won it; so did Aaron Baddeley and Brendan Jones, world class professionals. Adam Scott played it but did not win, and Boundy, who used to be a volunteer driver each year, says the members continue to follow their favourite players into their professional careers, years on. For instance Scott Gardiner, the New South Welshman who recently graduated to the United States PGA Tour, whom Boundy drove each day some years ago. “He forgot his shoes,&apos&apos says Boundy. “He asked me: &aposJohn, can you go and get them. They&aposre in this bag in my room&apos. I went and got them, he gave me the key to his room, and we made it back to play. His journey has just been amazing.&apos&apos This year the Riversdale Cup boasts the men&aposs world No. 2 (Brady Watt) on one side, along with three other men in the top 100 on the world amateur rankings. Melburnian Su-Hyun Oh, the world No. 4, is in the women&aposs field and there are another seven players in the field who boast a top-100 ranking. Initially, Riversdale wanted to show itself off, according to Boundy, who says the club was struggling as a kind of &apos&apospoor cousin&apos&apos alongside the Melbourne Golf Club, which later became the esteemed Royal Melbourne GC. The notion remains the same; Riversdale is on show this week. Many of the members will be volunteers out on the course as marshalls, walking scorers, or driving players from their accommodation each day. “The tournament is the showpiece of our club and it&aposs the showpiece of amateur golf in Victoria,&apos&apos says Boundy. “The Amateur open moves around, but the Riversdale Cup stays here. It brings the whole club together. There are volunteers who do lots of jobs and it&aposs a focus, to bring the course to a peak. It&aposs always at it&aposs best around Riversdale Cup time. It&aposs a time of pride, we put our place on show and if you talk to the golfers who&aposve played here for a few years they will tell you it&aposs their favourite tournament because it&aposs friendly and it&aposs run on professional lines. They feel very welcome.&apos&apos Three years ago, Riversdale redeveloped its clubhouse — which was originally the home of the famous judge Sir Redmund Barry, who sat in the trial of Ned Kelly in 1880 and sentenced him to death by hanging. The course is in its pomp this week in superb Melbourne sunshine, its rolling fairways of Santa Ana couch sparkling. At around 6000m it is short by modern standards, with several driveable par-fours including the 18th. But the dog-legged fairways make it tricky too, along with the smallish greens. The members lose their course for a week but never complain. “They love it,&apos&apos says Boundy. “They&aposre proud. Here we are, we&aposre not a sandbelt course. It&aposs an older course, a shorter course than the modern-day course, but it&aposs got enormous history. In my personal opinion it&aposs the best members&apos course in Melbourne. Not the best course, but the best members&apos course.&apos&apos