David Meredith, one of Bonnie Doon's greatest players of the modern era, died on Friday June 5, a
chip and putt short of his 75th birthday.
David had been suffering bad health for a number of years and eventually his heart gave out on him.
In 1950, David Meredith would come home from school, grab his father's hickory-shafted clubs, and knock some old golf balls around Snape Park, Maroubra. Every so often a little guy would come past
walking his Doberman. Sometimes he would stop and give the ten-year-old kid a few tips. David had the good sense to listen.
The little guy with the Doberman was Norman Von Nida. The Von, who lived at the end of the street, won the Australian Open that year (he also had four top tens in the British Open) and was regarded as one of the most astute teachers in the game. No wonder David became such a fine player.
Born in 1940, he grew up in Storey Street, which runs beside Snape Park, just on the other side of Bunnerong Road. It's about pin-high with the first tee at Bonnie Doon. Like most golf-mad kids at the time David became a caddie.
Every Saturday and Sunday he would turn up at The Doon first thing in the morning and sit squirming on a bench with the other caddies waiting for the caddie-master to give them a job. The going rate for carrying clubs was five bob (50c) a round. The clients in those days were often bookies and jockeys.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays they'd take money off one another at Randwick. On the other days they'd take money off one another at Bonnie Doon.
"Hollywood George" Freeman was a regular and David remembered George "Cotton Fingers" Moore
being as skilful at protecting his handicap as he was at nursing a favourite over the line.
One day in 1953 David got the job of carrying the clubs for Welsh singer Donald Peers, then on an extended tour of Australia. "I was expecting he'd give me 10 bob – and he gave me 10 pounds," David recalled. It was a fortune for a kid in those days, and David used to it buy his first set of clubs and get some lessons from Bonnie Doon professional Vic James, whose shop was a recycled Nissen hut on the site of what is now the putting green beside the 10th tee.
In those days Bonnie Doon was almost treeless. The rough was sandy waste and the New Zealand Browntop bent greens were renowned as some of the best in the state. Then, as now, the wind and elevated greens made it a great test of golf, and a great place to learn.
By the time he was fifteen David was caddying for the pennant team and had got his own handicap down to four. That year he won the NSW schoolboys' championship at Bankstown. Surfing, football and beer took over for a few years but he returned to golf in 1959, and began to take the game seriously.
He first played major pennants for Bonnie Doon in 1965 and played his last season as a 63-year-old in 2003. He was a ferociously competitive match-player, as many a slim-hipped young star discovered when they thought they were in for an easy day against an old bloke.
One of his great strengths was always, well, his great strength, built up over many years working in the fruit and vegetable markets at Flemington with Les and David Bromley, another couple of Bonnie Doon legends.
Oddly enough, "Merro" never won the club championship, which perhaps reflects more on the quality of the opposition – players like Bruce Nairn, Barrie Baker, Greg Bell and the Bromleys – than it does on his own ability.
But David had plenty of success away from Bonnie Doon. He was runner-up in the NSW Amateur in 1977, and the following year was leading amateur in the New Zealand Open, beating Frank Nobilo by holing a 10-footer at the last. Nobilo turned pro the following year and went on to record top-10 finishes in all four Majors.
"Frank has never forgotten it," David said. "I see him every so often and he always reminds me of it."
David also had a fine record in senior golf. In 1996 he won the NSW Senior championship at Manly and topped it by winning the Australian Senior championship at Peninsula in Melbourne the same year.
He counted his best round of golf as the day he shot 68 on lightning greens in a howling westerly to win the Bonnie Doon Amateur. Neil Sarkies, who went on to become a touring pro in Japan and elsewhere, shot 71 and next best was a 76.
Apart from time fishing and monitoring his share portfolio, David was never far away from golf. He was always in his garage tinkering with his clubs, full of theories about kick-points and spin rates as he searched for that little bit of shape or a few extra metres off the tee.
For years he ran the players locker room at the Australian Open – where he looked after the likes of Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Adam Scott and others. He stayed in regular touch with American Bill Rogers, winner of the 1981 British Open, for whom he caddied for a few years. And he was proud of having mentored and coached Matthew Zions, who spent a year living with the Merediths while he found his feet. Zions had his breakthroughvictory on the European Tour in 2011 but subsequently found the touring life too hard on his family.
Ill health kept David away from The Doon for the last year of his life as he coped with serious heart and eyesight problems. His condition worsened as winter approached and he died in hospital on June 5.
Merro was a great bear of a man, with a rolling bushie's gait and bluff features that belied a piercing, analytical mind. He loved Bonnie Doon, with which he had a 65-year association.
Truly, the old place will not be the same without him.
Dozens of current and former Bonnie Doon members attended a touching funeral service on June 12. Club captain Greg Bell was among those who spoke with great humour and affection about the bloke known universally as Merro.
(This article is based on a profile that first appeared in the Doon Despatch in 2011).