GARY MELLING has won the Oldham and District Golf Championship for a third time.
The latest success in the scratch competition on his home Crompton and Royton course – 27 years after he first lifted the cup – was extra special for the 43-year-old sports teacher at Saddleworth School.
Not only did Gary’s triumph, but the success also saw him become a scratch golfer for the first time in his life.
Gary, who had rounds of 70 and 68 for 138, finished four shots clear of runner-up and club mate, Mike Shaw, explained why the success was one to savour.
He said: “In 2012 I had hit rock bottom as my handicap had gone up from one to six, and I decided I had to do something about it as middle age approached.
“I had lessons with Peter Stiles at Trafford and they were a massive help in turning round my game.
“I won the club championship at Crompton and Royton for the first time last season having been runner up six times and now have won the district championship.”
Gary, who was the youngest winner of the championship aged 16, won his second event 20 years ago.
“I am one of only seven golfers to win the district championship three or more times which is also special,” he explained.
In his opening round of 70, Gary would have done even better had he not bogeyed holes 16 and 17.
Then in round two he was two over par after five holes before reeling off birdies at the sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th holes.
It was also the first time Gary had ever broken 140 for a 36-hole scratch competition. He is now joint lowest handicapper at Crompton and Royton alongside Martin Barnes.
Gary also helped Crompton and Royton win the team prize in the district championship alongside Mike Shaw, Kris Sutcliffe and Martin Barnes.
Gary, whose 10-year-old son Daniel has taken up golf, also puts down his renaissance down to being more relaxed.
He said: “I have been a touch judge with the Rugby Football League for the last six or seven years.
“Before it was all about golf and I was under that much scrutiny whereas now it is a hobby and I am a lot more relaxed.”
Indeed, 24 hours after winning the district golf championship, Gary was a touch judge at the Kingstone Press Championship game between Dewsbury Rams and Rochdale Hornets.
Gary, who is also a reserve referee for the Betfred Super League, took up refereeing initially to take charge of games at Saddleworth School.
“A few people said I was good at it and ought to take it up, and that is how it began,” he explained.
Gary, whose goal is to make it to the Super League as local man Tony Martin did, has already been on the line for the St Helens versus Widnes game in the Vince Karalius Cup.
And he believes his exploits at golf and rugby league prove that age is no barrier.
“Never give up on your dreams as I have had success in my late thirties and forties so don’t ever give up on your aspirations,” he said.