Five years ago, Rita Gounder was finding it hard to come to grips with the game of golf, but a major change in approach has worked wonders.
After a great 2023, the Richmond Golf Club member took out the title of Western Sydney Region Veteran Golf Association's ladies player of the year.
The year long competition sees veterans golfers from eight different Western Sydney clubs competing over eight 18 hole rounds.
After a very strong year, Rita finished with 117 points, winning out over runner up and fellow Richmond player Lynette Luttringer on 109 points.
Rita has accompanied her husband to the golf course for 34 years. She used to caddy for him, and drive the cart, but never really got into the game because she felt she couldn't hit the ball as far as she wanted.
She started playing golf socially with the Indian Cultural Advancement Society Australia (ICASA) around seven or eight years ago, but considered herself a bit of a hack.
In early 2018, ICASA ran an instructional course for members' wives at Colonial Golf - a nine hole course in Werrington, and Rita took part.
After encouragement from Pat, she decided to join Richmond Golf Club in order to try and take her skills to the next level.
It was at Richmond she received some invaluable advice that would completely change the face of her game. She had previously been playing left handed, but was advised by then club member Allen Dowd to switch her grip and play right handed.
She was reluctant at first, but Allen's brother Blake encouraged her to give it a try, insisting she would get a lot more distance out of her swing that way. While she had previously only been able to hit the ball 90 metres, she found after trying to hit right handed she was able to drive the ball 120-130 metres, with a maximum length of about 140 metres.
While the potential to improve her long game was clear, she found the change difficult and extremely frustrating at times. She persevered, and by July 2019, her Golf Australia handicap had been reduced from 38 to 24. It currently sits at 13.3.
Rita said she loves golf because it appeals to her nature.
"If you talk to people around me, they'll say 'she's very competitive, very hard on herself'," she said.
"It's kind of because I know my ability, I know what I can do."
While she loves competing, she says her goals aren't oriented around the idea of beating others - she primarily sees the game as a form of competition against herself.
"I came across a golf saying a little while ago and I've stuck by it - it's not about being better than someone else, it's about being better than I was the day before."
The game has also opened up a whole new social network for Rita. She and Pat are both members of a group of golfers from ICASA that regularly socialises and goes on annual trips to Barnbougle Dunes in Launceston and the Murray River.
Rita said she is very grateful to Pat, Allen and Blake Dowd for encouraging her and helping her develop her game.
It was a very successful year overall for Richmond Golf Club's veterans. Fellow club member Michael Harrison beat out Penrith Golf Club's John Brown for the title of men's player of the year, while the club finished second to Glenmore Heritage Valley in the Club of the Year award.