Bearing the title of president of the Victorian Chemists Golf Club (VCGC) comes with a long line of golfing lineage; something Melbourne pharmacist, David Norton wears with pride. With 150 active members on the list and up to 90 golfers – pharmacists, those in the industry and guests – playing every month, it’s a sporting pursuit that offers more than just a day out on the green. Brimming with friendship and business networks, the club is a chance to enjoy life beyond the dispensary.
“I first became involved in the late 80s when my McGloin’s representative invited me as his guest for a game at Victoria Golf Club. I didn’t go again until 1992, when my wife, Ingrid, saw an ad in the AJP saying that pharmacist golfers were invited to come along and encouraged me to attend. Big mistake – I’ve hardly missed a day since!” David says. “The main benefit, as a golfer, is the ability to play a great number of the best golf courses in Victoria and the rest of Australia. We have monthly meetings from February to November, a national carnival in March, and our November get together involves two days of golf at Barwon Heads and Thirteenth Beach – with a number of the more keen souls playing at Port Fairy and Warrnambool the two days prior as well. However, its benefits are far more than that. Chemist golf gives one the chance to meet like-minded individuals within the profession – both pharmacists and company representatives and managers alike. New members and guests are welcomed with open arms and treated as brothers and sisters.”
The annual national carnival is generally on the eastern seaboard, with up to 160 players enjoying a week’s worth of fun. Kicking off with an opening dinner and a guest speaker on Sunday night, followed by five days of golf and a closing dinner on the Friday night, David says the art of pacing oneself is especially pertinent. “Next year’s carnival is the 72nd Australian Chemists Golf Carnival, to be held, COVID-willing, in Brisbane,” he says. “Under the auspices of the Australian Chemist Golf Club, there has also been around 10 golfing trips to the British Isles and USA over the last 25 years or so.”
Formed in 1946, the VCGC has recently combined charity with teeing off, running a charity golf day in October at Spring Valley Golf Club. “The recipient of our day is Melba Support Services, which is a charity started by one of our members, Harry Jones, many years ago,” David says. “Also, out of the proceeds of this day, we donate to Pharmacy Support Services. Each year we have raised roughly $25,000 each year for these charities; something we are very proud of.”
Born in 1958, David grew up in Moonee Ponds, attending St Bernard’s College in Essendon and went to Pharmacy College in Parkville; what was then an independent entity, but now part of Monash University. After finishing his traineeship in Reservoir with The Gance brothers – those of Chemist Warehouse fame – David then secured a job with his mentor in Coburg, Rolf Werner, with whom he worked with for a number of years before going into partnership in 1985.
For David, the VCGC represents far more than a bit of fresh air. “I love the sense of camaraderie and friendship it endears. My year at Pharmacy College is heavily represented and it’s fabulous to get together with my mates of many years to play golf and enjoy a drink and a good meal. If not for Chemist Golf, some of us would be lucky to see each other once a year,” he says. “Also, through Chemist Golf I’ve made wonderful business and supplier contacts, found business partners, made friends with pharmacists from different fields than mine and have just enjoyed the best professional association one could find.”
The club is constantly implementing changes to encourage new members, especially younger generations which the president is especially passionate about. “We really want to make the club more accessible for younger golfers and non-regular golfers. We are a registered golf club, so one can play without being a member of a regular bricks and mortar golf club and still get a handicap,” he says. “The one misconception we sometimes get about Chemist Golf is that you have to be a good golfer to come along – believe me, that’s not the case! There’s not too many Adam Scotts or Greg Normans playing among us.”
David says the club also plays an important part in offering an outlet outside business hours. “Like many small businesses, pharmacists can really suffer from the four-wall syndrome. Being stuck in one room for 40-60 hours per week can be very draining and it’s extremely important to get out and smell the roses,” he says. “An outlet like Chemist Golf gives you an alternate point of view and allows you to ask questions of people without a vested interest in what you’re doing. A number of times over the years, I’ve had various dilemmas that were easily solved by others over a game of golf and a bottle of red wine!”
While COVID-19 has drastically impacted the club’s get togethers – with the last monthly meeting held long ago in February – it’s hoped the 2021 golfing future will be a little more secure. “All pharmacists and those working in the pharmacy industry are encouraged to join; young or old, hospital or retail and of any gender,” David says. “Our only proviso is you have to derive 80 per cent or more of your income from the pharmacy industry to be a member. You can still be a guest without being involved in the industry. We love new members and will subsidise their first few meetings to give them a taste of what they’ve been missing out on.”
For more information, visit www.vcgc.com.au