2022 04 news oldfieldThe 1950s was a great era for John Oldfield.
As a youngster before Portarlington Football Club had under-18s, he went into Geelong with a bunch of his mates and won a junior premiership for Barwon in 1951 aged 16.

They came home to pull on Port’s red and (then) black jumper and soon won the 1953 Jarman Cup in the GDFL (in some ways the forerunner to the current Bellarine Football League).

John met his bride-to-be Valerie and to see out the decade, he played in the senior premiership teams of 1958 and 1959, the latter as undefeated champions.
Oh, and did we mention that in the interim, having been introduced by tennis teammate Stan Chirgwin – who not long afterwards became a long-time captain himself – Oldfield somehow managed to fit in joining the Portarlington Golf Club in 1952.

It was in 1955 that Oldfield, whose given names are actually Stephen Leonard, won his first golf prize – and even that came with a winning twist.

Oldfield, just 20, was still eligible for the C Grade club championship, but managed to win the B Grade trophy concurrently (don’t ask us how!) and still proudly has the plate he was awarded.

By 25 he was on the golf club’s committee and the rest, as they partly say, is a long, rich and colourful history.
“Yeah, four premierships, I won that plate and I got married, so I had a good time,” Oldfield said with a cheeky smile this month as he reached 70 years of club membership.

“When I joined we had just had a few holes out this (east) side (of the clubhouse) and they were sandscrapes, so you could probably say a few things have changed since.”
Now 87, Oldfield, a motor mechanic by trade, originally worked in what was Eden’s Garage on the site of the present-day Woolworths supermarket.

He went to Toyota in Geelong, to a diesel mechanic in North Geelong, then did shift work at Alcoa – all the while pouring his spare time into his family and the golf club.
“I was on the committee for a little while, but really I just did more volunteering over the years,” said Oldfield, whose lowest handicap was around eight in the late 1960s.
“We used to do a lot of different stuff that was needed … I dug bunkers, we painted the containers, we dug in water lines to get sewerage line from St Leonards and Indented Head to here.

“But most of my time, really, was spent volunteering with the juniors. I used to get a trailer from nightshift at Alcoa on Saturday night and on Sunday mornings go and pick all the juniors up to bring them to golf – I must have six or seven kids in there one day!”

Oh, did we mention Oldfield’s spare time? No that’s because he didn’t have that much of it.

What he did dabble in was training greyhounds. And by dabble, we mean he was good enough to win the prestigious Lord Mayor’s Trophy in 1972 at Olympic Park with a dog called Flying Stage – “I’ll never forget that” – over 560 yards.

In his mid-50s, Oldfield had some heart trouble – a “big wake-up call, really, because Dad died at 55, his father at 62 and his at about 41, so I knew I had to do something”.
“So it was about 1992 when I joined the `zipper club’ and had a heart bypass.

“I don’t know why I’m still going now! I’ve had three stents put in (since), so I’ve kept going all right. I used to do a lot of walking, but not so much any more. I even use the cart out here now.”

Remarkably, 41 years after his first club trophy, Oldfield won his second B Grade championship in 1996, a forerunner to arguably the greatest acknowledgment of his efforts – his life membership that was conveyed in 2003 after 51 years of membership and service.

Behind former president Michael Hogan, Oldfield is the second longest serving member at Portarlington, but he’s proudly the longest continual golfing member with Hogan now a non-playing member.

And after all these years, Oldfield still loves coming to the golf course, these days mostly when Val drops him off to play Tuesday competitions.
“Oh yeah, for sure. It’s your own personal game plus you’re with your guys and you crap on a bit and there’s a lot of give and take out there and then you come in here and have a beer and forget about it all,” he said.

“You have the odd bet, the trips, a few end-of-year break-ups when I was generally the cook – mostly for the mussels, about 20kg that I’d boil up and we’d go through ‘em. I love it.

“But there’s so many things you can do here (at the club) – play a game, have a coffee, meet your friends and shout them a meal and that’s what it all is, really, the camaraderie.”

President John Bowman, coincidentally a recent victim of Oldfield in a match play competition, said the veteran’s contribution was nothing short of amazing, particularly with his role in advancing the junior players through the decades.

“John’s been invaluable – a huge contributor to the golf club, but also within the Portarlington community,” Bowman said.

“The club wouldn’t be where it is now without John and the wonderful band of volunteers we’ve had over the years – and for him to get to 70 years as a playing member is absolutely sensational.”