Week 4: Melbourne
I apologize for the delay - New Zealand, apartment moves, and the flu have been keeping me quite preoccupied. But that is not why you clicked on this link. You want to read about Melbourne!
At this point in the trip, flying to a new city and immediately heading to the golf course for a practice round has become a routine maneuver. Fortunately, Kooringal Golf Club was a short drive away. What stands out about this week is that, instead of pro-ams, we have our first qualifier for a bigger event. Placing in the top 5 in the qualifier at Kooringal would guarantee us a spot in the Oates Victorian Open later this week. The Vic Open is a special tournament because it is the only professional golf tournament that offers both male and female golfers the same purse amount. Yay equality! To make it even more fun, men and women alternate teeing off so spectators can enjoy both tournaments on one ticket.
Most Victorians related Melbourne to Meghan and me as the San Francisco of Australia. With foggy mornings and intermittent rains, we had no idea what kind of weather to expect for the qualifier. Either way, I was glad I packed my Under Armour gear because it got quite chilly!
I was really happy with how I played in the qualifier, especially after my performance in the Gold Coast last week. I shot +2 and -2 qualified. I parred every hole on the front nine and did not make a birdie until my 17th hole. However, I felt confident with my long game and had a strong two-putt system going. I also spent the afternoon with my new friend Kristen, who qualified for the Vic Open, an Aussie, and a Swiss girl.
Since neither Meghan nor I qualified, we needed to make a decision. Leave for Adelaide early and get some extra practice in or stick around Melbourne until our scheduled flight? As much as we wanted to be proactive about switching to bent grass, we made the financially sound decision of staying with our original flight itinerary. This meant more exploring!
Our first destination was the Lonsdale Golf Club the day after the qualifier. We played a 9-hole match on a beautiful course. It is amazing how a few weeks can change your warm up routine from thinking you need to hit balls to not needing a driving range at all. It is good for the mental game!
The next day, I decided to take my first real off-day of the trip. Since our host family was on holiday, Meghan and I had free reign of our AirBnB basement apartment. I had dreams of sleeping in, catching up on my blog, and simply sitting and reading. However, life had different plans. On our way back from breakfast (we found a cute, punny place called Cheeky Cow), we began conversing with two Aussie painters. What started as a polite conversation soon transformed into a three-hour political and philosophical discussion. I felt my skin burning, but the nice gentlemen offered sunscreen too late. I was done for.
Despite another burnt forehead/shoulders situation, I really enjoyed our conversation with Matt and his friend, who continued working diligently and whose name I cannot recall (Sorry!). I also learned that painters wear white while on the job because the paint, no matter the color, does not stand out as strongly as on darker clothing.
Since the day was already not going to plan, Meghan and I decided to drive the Great Ocean Road in hopes of finding a rock formation several of the girls had been posting pictures of on Instagram. Next time, we’re going to ask them where they went because the Road goes on for kilometers, and we were about two hours away from that specific rock. We still had a good time getting a little hiking and sightseeing in at sunset, but we hope to see the Apostles next time if we are fortunate enough to come back.
Meghan and I spent the next day driving. Just kidding, we played 18 at Yarra Yarra Golf Club in the Sand Belt, but it was a two-hour trek each way. The course was in great shape, and it really sticks out in my memory because everyone teed off #6. Now Meghan and I had a running joke that the flies in Victoria liked me, but we found a fly who just absolutely loved me. We were walking down a fairway when a bug flew straight down my throat. I have had my share of flies in my mouth this week, but this one was dedicated. I coughed for five minutes until the little “buggah” flew out of my mouth and went on its merry way. Meghan laughed at me; I cried (both because I could not breathe and because I was laughing a bit as well). I also felt violated for the next 10 holes or so. Despite that intimate moment, Yarra Yarra is an awesome course, and I would definitely play it again. Thanks, Jess, for making that call for us! Another fun fact - Karrie Webb holds the last course record there before the course was altered in 2011; she shot 64 in 2000.
We saved Friday as our downtown Melbourne day. Thanks to Jess again for helping us find the cheap parking garage (even though Meghan was driving and I tried to pay out my window - the American side. This resulted in security joining us so he could get my jammed card out of the incorrect machine. Oops, we were doing so well!).
We power-walked Melbourne. We first found the Shrine of Remembrance, which blew our minds. Each city has a memorial for its veterans, and Melbourne’s is expansive and has a museum. Reading about Australia’s involvement in the World Wars, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and even our War in Iraq, I realized how one-sided America’s education system really is. Not once in school did I hear about Australia specifically helping us with Japan in World War II or sending forces to the Middle East. This may be common knowledge for political science and government majors, but as a history major, I never learned about that. This all ties into Australia being isolated but involved in world affairs, and I respect them for it. Let’s just stay I have a whole new perspective to research! It makes the T.W.A.M.P. (Typical William and Mary Person) in me very excited!
To lighten the mood, we found delicious gluten-free cupcakes and continued on our way. Meghan and I ran into the Olympic Park, where they hosted both the Summer Olympics in 1956 and the recent Australian Open Tennis Championships. Being a new fan and all, I was excited to check out the courts. We tried getting into the cricket grounds, but the arena was preparing for a Guns N’ Roses concert, and security would not let us in.
We quickly walked back toward the city to try to catch the last tour of the Old Melbourne Gaol, or the prison that housed the notorious Ned Kelly, but we were too late. Kelly was considered the real-life Robin Hood of Australia - some championed him and others chased him. The museum hosts ghost tours at night, but we already had a fun night planned.
After picking up some burgers and fries (gluten free, of course), we grabbed our car and, after paying out of the correct window, made our way to the AFLW game. The women’s football league recently turned professional and offers free tickets in order to gain support from the crowds. Meghan and I were amazed to see a full stadium. Hopefully Americans will begin supporting their female athletes as much as Aussies do!
It took awhile for Meghan and me to get the specifics of the game down (we had to ask for help on that one), but we got through the first half with our touchdown/field goal knowledge from the NFL. We have actually become good fans of Aussie sports over the last week. After playing cricket in the Gold Coast, Meghan and I decided to really research the rules, and I think we have the hang of it! Now we can add AFLW to our repertoire.
The next day, we were back in action. We played 18 on another fun, local course, Curlewis. They had the new golf boards in lieu of carts - I didn't try one, but it looks like electric skateboarding with your golf bag. There also happened to be a cidery nearby, so we took advantage of the rural views and the Ploughman's Platter. I now know that I definitely enjoy apple cider over pear cider, but everything was tasty, especially the traditional Pavlova dessert!
Our last day was a spontaneous off day. We were planning to go to the Vic Open and watch some of our friends, but the day turned cold, windy, and rainy. We opted for a small, local theater in Geelong and had a double feature - Sing and Hidden Figures. While both were great, I highly recommend Hidden Figures to those who have not seen it yet!
I think we filled our week with a good balance of playing, sightseeing, and relaxing. The night before we flew to Adelaide, we met our host family, Margie and Graeme, for dinner. They were very gracious and knowledgeable of Australia’s history and current government affairs (and were my source for the addendum on the Gold Coast post). Hopefully we will be able to spend more time with them next time around. Now we fly to the Aussie Open Qualifier!
Just a golfer who loves to write and a writer who loves to golf.