Huntingdale Golf Club where Ian Stanley honed many of his amateur and early professional skills
The news today that Victorian golfer Ian Stanley has passed away at the age of 69 after a long battle with illness makes for another sad day in Australian golf so soon after the passing of one of its greatest, Peter Thomson.
Stanley, or ‘Stan’ as he was known to his friends, won events on the European and European Senior Tour, including perhaps his greatest moment when defeating Bob Charles in a playoff for the Senior Open Championship at Royal County Down.
I caddied in Europe in 1973, 74 and 75 and was often exposed to the golfing and social exploits of Stan. He was a great character and one of those people who could say something and get away with it when others might find themselves in a lot of grief. That’s not saying he did not have his share of grief and that he got away with it all the time.
My traveling companion in Europe caddied for Stan for the first half of 1973 but at the Open Championship they had a bust up during the second round and I was asked if I would caddy for him after he had made the first cut at the Open Championship at Royal Troon that year.
He did not progress any further as in those days there was also a 54 hole cut and so that was my one and only exposure to Stan from a caddying point of view.
I did, though, caddy for Bob Shearer on a regular basis in those early years and, together, they along with Jack Newton and Stewart Ginn were very much the ‘likely lads’ as they played and ‘ploughed’ their way through Great Britain and Europe.
We would often load the Spalding bag and clubs of Stanley and those of Shearer into our mini as they travelled by other means to the next event barely leaving enough room for our own gear as we drove between tournaments.
In 1975 Stanley won his only European Tour event when he defeated Christy O.Connor Jnr in a playoff to win the Martini International at the amazingly historic Westward Ho in Devon.
Finishing one behind him in a share of 3rd in that event was his good mate Bob Shearer.
He would also finish runner-up behind Seve Ballesteros at the 1977 French Open.
He was a prolific winner of titles domestically including the Victorian, Tasmanian and Queensland Opens amongst others. He also won the 1988 New Zealand Open.
Stanley played a role in television commentary in Australia for some time but was never really able to break into it on a regular basis and in 1999 headed to the relatively fledgling European Senior Tour to try his luck.
He was an almost immediate success having kept his game in shape through until the age of 50. He did not win in his first season although recording several top tens but he would win in 2000 and 2001 culminating in what was his great win in Northern Ireland where he defeated a star studded field.
He would also win the Senior PGA Championship that same year but played just another four years before his last season in 2005.
I will remember Ian Stanley as a cheeky, likeable rogue and quite the character. He could at times be irritating but also very funny.
The one story of many that sticks in my mind when I think of Stan was during practice rounds for the Sumrie Fourball Championship at the delightful Blairgowrie Golf Club in Perthshire in Scotland.
Stanley was teamed with Shearer for the week and during a practice round when neither Ian, Bob or the rest of us had seen the course he asked the question on a dogleg left par 4 as to what line he should take from the tee.
An older Scotsman was standing behind the tee observing what was going on and suggested, in his broad Scottish accent, Stan should hit it at the ‘forking’ (divided) tree on the corner. Well Stan didn’t need any more ammunition than that and quickly retorted in an aggressive manner that there was no need for the man to swear.
You kind of had to be there but it was one of those typical Stanley moments when he was having a laugh with someone and he quickly defused the situation by going over and engaging in a warm way with the spectator.
Ian Stanley might not have received the accolades of Jack Newton, Bob Shearer and even Stewart Ginn amongst the likeable rogues of the day but he was a very successful player all the same.
He is very much part of the rich history of Victorian and Australian golf.