22 April 2024

Wollongong cancer charity golf day honours Peter Newell, a man way above par

| Nick Hartgerink
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Group of people.

Peter Newell (centre) with Steelers mate Bob Millward, friends and colleagues at his Local Legends Lunch in 2016. Photo: Supplied.

The late Peter Newell OAM always enjoyed a good charity golf event, so there is no doubt he’d be chuffed to know that such a day is being held in his memory.

Not only that, the charity that will benefit from Peter’s golf day is one that was near and dear to his heart – the Illawarra Cancer Carers, which raises money to provide care and emotional support for the families of cancer sufferers in the region, and to fund cancer research.

Peter, who had a distinguished career as a newspaperman in the Illawarra and later as chairman of ClubsNSW and ClubsAustralia, died on 28 September, 2020 after his own long battle with cancer.

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Now his beloved Steelers Club, where he was chairman for 20 years and a director for 30, is celebrating his life, achievements and contribution to the community with the inaugural Peter Newell OAM Memorial Golf Day at Wollongong Golf Club on 17 May.

The good news is that it is not too late to enter a team for the four-person Ambrose event or sponsor a hole. Participants can even choose to form a team of three, with the fourth player to be one of the St George Illawarra NRL stars.

Steelers general manager Rowen Cole says: “Peter Newell OAM, a character larger than life, touched so many more than those just around him, having been selflessly devoted to a life of service making enormous contributions to the local community within Wollongong and the Illawarra region, journalism, rugby league and the club sector.”

Peter spent 30 years at the Illawarra Mercury newspaper from 1970 to 2000, where he started as a journalist and progressed to editor and then general manager.

He served as a director and chairman of the Illawarra Steelers between 1989 and 2019 and director of the merged St George Illawarra Dragons between 1999 and 2019. He also spent 15 years as ClubsNSW chairman from 2004 and 11 years as ClubsAustralia chairman from 2007.

Peter Newell.

Peter Newell. Photo: Supplied.

Some of Peter’s most notable achievements include:

  • Leading the community campaign to improve road safety on the notorious, busy single-lane “death trap” Mt Ousley Road in the late 1970s
  • Advocating for world-class rugby league in the Illawarra through the establishment of the Illawarra Steelers
  • Playing a pivotal role in the negotiations of the Steelers’ merger with St George to form the St George Illawarra Dragons in 1999
  • Tirelessly supporting the clubs sector, delivering invaluable support to local communities and organisations
  • Leading the clubs’ industry response to the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in South-east Asia, raising more than $3 million in aid.

A charity golf day is a fitting way to honour Peter’s memory.

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Peter loved golf, having learned the game in his hometown of Nabiac on the NSW Mid-North Coast. He would often reminisce about a “magical one-and-a-half wood” that he used to hit “out of sight” as a teenager in Nabiac.

After retiring from the Mercury in 2000, he finally found the time to get serious about golf again, regularly playing in the Wednesday competition at Wollongong Golf Club with his great mate Ian “Chook” Neill and others.

Being handpicked as chairman of ClubsNSW in 2004 (and later ClubsAustralia) restricted the time available for golf somewhat.

But even when he was busy running the Mercury and later the clubs industry, Peter loved charity golf events, seeing them as a great way to support a charity, socialise and have some fun on the golf course. During his time at the Mercury he was always keen to enter a company team in such events, and when I worked for Peter I was always happy to put my hand up to be one of the players.

We loved it when “the boss” found the time to play as well.

On one memorable day at The Grange Golf Club in 1999, Peter was having a fine old time smashing his driver off the tee – comfortable in the knowledge that under Ambrose rules, even if he duffed, sliced or hooked his tee shot (as he often did), three more players would have the chance to find the fairway after him.

On one hole he teed up his ball, only to be distracted before his shot. While he dealt with the distraction, team member Peter Sharp quickly replaced his ball with one designed to explode on impact in a shower of white powder.

Big Pete returned to his shot, swung hard and his ball exploded in a puff of white, while we all exploded in laughter. The shocked look on his face is one of the priceless memories I have of someone I, like so many others, considered a great mate as well as a great man.

I can’t imagine there will be any exploding balls on 17 May, but there will be a lot of fun, a good lunch, some wonderful memories of Peter Newell shared, and money raised for a most worthy cause.

Congratulations to Rowen Cole and current Steelers Chairman Graeme Gulloch for honouring Peter in such a way.

To be part of the day, contact Amy Bove at the Steelers Club by email at [email protected] or phone 4227 2255.

Nick Hartgerink worked with Peter Newell at the Illawarra Mercury for 23 years.

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