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Chipping for Charity: The National Stroke Foundation’s Counterstroke Golf Classic

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For those of you who have a passion for golfing and a handicap and would simply love to play on some of the most exclusive courses that Australia has to offer, the Counterstroke Golf Classic may be the charity event for you. Considered as one of the major fundraisers for the National Stroke Foundation, this event is stipulated as being one of the best-valued charity golfing events in history as the entry fees are minimal; the camaraderie, scenery and cuisine are magnificent; and the prizes are fantastic. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your clubs, and let’s head for Victoria’s Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas.

There is nothing more exhilarating than standing on a green where some of the world’s best golfers have played. Perfectly manicured rolling hills stretch as far as the eye can see, a flag waves to you in the distance, and, as you ready yourself to tee off, you can smell the salty breath of the ocean. This is what many of the private golf courses on the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas inVictoria offer every golfer, but, unfortunately with exclusive membership that is often costly, not every golfer will have the opportunity to play on such prestigious courses.

However, this all changes if you decide to support the National Stroke Foundation by entering in their Counterstroke Golf Classic, which is run twice yearly on courses, such as the Greg Norman designed National and the picturesque Flinders. In addition, this event is proclaimed by some of the most seasoned golfers as being one of the most rewarding and enjoyable endeavours that you will ever have the pleasure of being involved with.

Ranald MacDonald, former managing director of the Melbourne Age and lecturer at Boston University, has competed in the Counterstroke Golf Classic for the last four and a half years and is an active committee member who professes that the event is so much fun.

“My interest has always been golf, which I absolutely adore. I have played for more than 23 years,” said Ranald. “Firstly, the Counterstroke Golf Classic is worthwhile, and, secondly, the people who are part of it feel that they can make some contribution and they have fun doing it as well as making friendships, and we also get to play on some excellent golf courses.”

Ranald adds, “A stroke has such an impact on lives. Sadly, people who get strokes often don’t get the treatment they need. The crucial thing is early warning and people knowing what to do, so we want to publicise this. This is one of the two objectives of the Counterstroke Classic — to publicise these signs and the other is to raise money for research. We just want to get the message out.”

When asked about his first event, Ranald describes it as breathtaking and great fun.

“I played at the Portsea, which is a lovely little course. I am not sure if it is on the schedule this year, but next year we have gotSorrento. Portsea is gorgeous. Everyone who played just enjoyed the camaraderie and had fun. Everyone plays against everyone in this event and it is so social and so much fun.”

Ranald defines the event as being ‘an exceptional contest’ even though he admits that he has not been fortunate enough to win.

“The event is good competition, and handicaps allow everyone to have a chance. Plus, you get to meet so many people each year. In fact, of the 600 people who play, a lot of us play again and again,” Ranald said. “Like everyone, I should have won every time, but, sadly, the rub of the green causes misfortune to strike every year, so this year is going to be the year.” Pausing for a moment, Ranald adds, “The bounces have all gone the wrong way, but not this year.”

The Counterstroke Golf Classic, which is run during February and September of every year, is one of the National Stroke Foundation’s major fundraisers.

Dr. Erin Lalor, CEO of the National Stroke Foundation, describes the event as fundamental to the group’s initiatives.

“The Counterstroke Golf Classic is incredibly important to the National Stroke Foundation as it enables us to support a number of vital programs within the organisation,” Dr. Lalor said.

The National Stroke Foundation, which was established in 1983 by Sir John Holland and Mr. David Browbill, aims to raise stroke awareness and prevent incidences as well as improve treatment and the quality of life for stroke sufferers. The National Stroke Research Institute estimates the costs at approximately $2.14 billion per year. In fact, a stroke, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, is the second biggest killer of Australians and the leading cause of disability, and it kills more women than breast cancer. In addition, an independent study conducted by AG Thrift, scientific researchers, estimates that some 60,000 Australian’s will suffer from a stroke in 2012.

This includes people, such as 43-year-old, mother of two, Kim Durose, who found that her arm would refuse to work on one lazy Sunday afternoon. And, when Kim tried to tell her husband, Matt, her words simply would not come out. Matt, luckily remembered the National Stroke Foundation’s FAST advertisement, which he had heard on the radio, and dialled for an ambulance.

Kim was rushed to hospital and treated with tPA, a clot-busting drug, and within 24 hours Kim’s symptoms were no longer a threat to her health.

“I realise how lucky I was. The scans showed that I had a significant clot in my brain and I now know that there is only a three-hour window to get the tPA treatment,” Kim said.

With only a three-hour window to treat a stroke sufferer and prevent any long-lasting damage, the National Stroke Foundation is focused on delivering their FAST message by any means possible.

The FAST test is one of the easiest ways of detecting stroke, and it gives you the best chance of helping a stroke sufferer receive the vital treatment that they need to maintain their quality of life. The FAST test is as follows:

Face – Check their face. Has their mouth dropped?

Arm – Can they lift both arms?

Speech – Is their speech slurred? Can they understand you?

Time – Time is critical. If you see these signs, dial ‘000’ immediately.

Tamie Fraser AO, wife of Malcolm Fraser, Australia’s 22nd Prime Minister, who competes in the event and who has been the Chairperson of the Counterstroke Golf Classic committee for the last four years, feels very passionate about the organisation and the event because she has witnessed the devastating effects of stroke.

“I know many people who have been affected by stroke. Some of these are my best friends and my grandmother, so I know how difficult it is. This illness has no quick-fix. If you don’t get there in three hours and recognise the signs, it becomes difficult to cure, and then it becomes a burden on the entire family,” Tamie said.

Tamie, who was initially invited to play in the Mornington Peninsula Counterstroke Golf Classic, decided to become actively involved in the event because she enjoys giving to others and also competing.

“It is doing ‘good’ by giving other people pleasure. And, I always think it is good to give so that you get a little bit back,” said Tamie. “When we first played, the first year before I was chairperson, my husband and I won a mixed event on one of the days and that was very exciting.”

Recollecting her first event, Tamie adds, “My first event was special because it was my first one, and I met all the people who had been playing in it for years. When they came to register, I was interested in the broad range of people who arrived. You knew there were people from medical backgrounds, and there were people who were involved with stroke because they knew people who had a stroke and they wanted to support the Stroke Foundation. Some of these people weren’t particularly well off or they were retired. We had a huge range of people and I loved meeting all of them.”

Dayle Marshall, coordinator of the Counterstroke Golf Classic events, who has been involved with golf for some 25 years and is actively involved in Stuart Appleby Junior Golf, explained just how the events are run.

“There are no specific classifications in the event, but there are different types of competition within it. The event is a 4-ball competition, and you use your golf handicap and enter into it. You can elect to play mixed, doubles, men’s or women’s tournaments, and each day is classified as a separate day of competition. Therefore, you can choose to play on one day or over the entire event. The choice is entirely yours,” Dayle said. “We even have novelty events, such as ‘beat the pro,’ which is just so much fun. Overall, I would have to say that the event truly is extraordinary because the entry fees are minimal, and this means that anyone and everyone can come and enjoy a fantastic day of golf on courses that they would not ordinarily be able to play on due to the private memberships and exclusivity.”

Entry fees to play a day of golf in the Counterstroke Classic range are less than $200 per person and this includes lunch. The fees paid go directly to the National Stroke Foundation as the golf clubs contribute to the green fees, and the sponsors of the event cover the costs of administration and prizes.

“We always invite companies to sponsor the event and it makes for great exposure as it is such a relaxed environment within a highly qualified market sector,” said Dayle. “The prizes we offer winners of events are lovely. These include wines, golf equipment, and books.”

The Counterstroke Golf Classic began in 1994 and the event has raised approximately $950,000 for the National Stroke Foundation. To date, some 12,500 entrants have participated in the event. The Bellarine Peninsula event, held in September 2012, typically has 200-300 entrants over the two days, and the MorningtonPeninsula event, which will next be held in February 2013, attracts some 500-700 participants. Dayle, however, would like to see these numbers rise and encourages people to enter before the deadlines of each event.

“There really is no limit to the number of people who can participate in these events, but we do have to consider how many people can safely play golf on a course at one time. Some golf courses will comfortably fit 120-150 people on them. Most pro tournaments have 144 competitors. I think our maximum would probably be 200,” Dayle said. “My target for the Mornington Peninsula event is to have 1,000 competitors play over the five days of golf, bearing in mind that not all participants play every day of the competition.”

Dayle, who has been coordinator of the event since late 2009, simply loves being involved with the National Stroke Foundation and confesses that she is motivated by her passion for golf and a personal experience with stroke.

“My great grandmother suffered a stroke and the research that the foundation does was extremely beneficial, so I was more than happy to assist. I also love the sense of enjoyment that the participants have and I am having a ball whilst doing something great,” said Dayle. “It is a great working environment, very rewarding.”

To obtain more information on the Counterstroke Golf Classic events, held on the Bellarine or MorningtonPeninsulas, and how to obtain entry forms, please contact Dayle Marshall via email at: dmarshall@strokefoundation.com.au or visit the Stroke Foundation website.

Please Note: This article was originally written by Tricia L. Snell and published in Lifestyle Investor Magazine Vol. 1.7 |  2010. It has been updated and re-printed with the permission of the Lifestyle Education Group.

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