James Lavender got the thrill of his life when the World Amateur Golf Rankings came out for this week. The 62-year-old Melburnian has climbed to No.1 in the world on the senior rankings, joining another Melbourne golfer, Nadene Gole, at the top of the WAGR list.
It means Australians hold the No.1 slots for both men and women at the same time – almost certainly a first.
Gole has been ranked No.1 since February, and both Lavender [pictured] and Gole won the Australian Senior Amateur titles in Perth in October.
Lavender has climbed to the top of the rankings for the first time on the back of his win in the Asia-Pacific Senior Championship in Vietnam.
“Look, I was pretty excited,” Lavender said. “I knew that I would be a chance (of reaching No.1) if I did well in the Asia-Pacific. I’m very goal-orientated. I like to build up to events, and even though it’s nice to win, I don’t just go and play.”
Lavender is a legend of Victorian club golf, still playing off scratch (and plus-4 as recently as early this year). Starting as a 19-year-old at Tullamarine Golf Club, he shifted to Northern Golf Club a couple of years later and quickly reduced his handicap to 1 in the space of two more years.
“I played footy and cricket, but I liked golf because you didn’t have to rely on selection. You could practise on your own if you wanted to. And it was up to you and your own results.”
Lavender has won a remarkable 24 club championships at Northern and another club championship at Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Next year he intends taking up an exemption as the Asia-Pacific champion and travelling to the UK to play The Amateur Championship for the first time.
“I only consider myself to be a club golfer,” he said. “I don’t do it full-time so it’s a little overwhelming. Looking at that and seeing yourself No.1 in the world, it’s out there!”
Meanwhile, Gole and Lavender have been named as captains of the Australian teams for the 2024 Senior Trans-Tasman Match at Taupo Golf Club in New Zealand from February 13-14.
• Nadene Gole (VIC) – captain
• Sue Wooster (VIC)
• Louise Mullard (NSW)
• Gemma Dooley (NSW)
• Cath Stolz (NSW)
• Jacqui Morgan (NSW)
• James Lavender (VIC) – captain
• Ian Frost (QLD)
• David Bagust (NSW)
• Greg Wilson (VIC)
• Graham Hourn (QLD)
• Ken Brewer (NSW)
Overall team manager – Helen Pascoe (VIC)