The Charles Tour opened in spectacular style in West Auckland at the ask>metro Muriwai Open last week. Here are some of the most memorable moments from a tournament that produced an exciting four rounds of golf.
The Great Finish: Last year Richard Lee and Michael Hendry had a battle for the ages right up to the 72nd hole where Lee made a great downhill putt for birdie from about 20 feet to put the pressure on the North Harbour professional. But Hendry responded making a fine putt of his own from about 8 feet to claim the inaugural Muriwai Open title by one shot on a total of 17 under par. Another tense finish title decided this year with three players Grant Moorhead, Hamish Robertson and Joshua Munn all tied for the lead on 12 under par with two holes to go. It was the easiest hole on the golf course, the 112m par 3 17th (stroke 18), that proved the deciding hole. With the wind coming off the West Coast, Moorhead in the penultimate group found a difficult lie in the bunker at the front of the green. He failed to get up and down and dropped back to 11 under. Robertson, who had made a fantastic 16 foot putt for birdie on 16, missed the green left and came up with a poor chip under pressure. While Munn, who had fired a number of shots at the 17th in the practice round, hit his tee shot to the center of the green and came close to making birdie. He headed down 18 with a one shot lead and no doubt that he’d get it done. “I played 18 well all week so I was pretty confident that I would do the same – hit the fairway and hit the green and then make par,” said Munn. “I wasn’t trying to make my putt on the last I just wanted to lag it up there below the hole so I was happy with the result.” Robertson battled to the last though. His four iron from 179m to about 15 feet was superb and gave him an outside chance of forcing a playoff. It missed but the golf fans who braved the weather on Sunday afternoon were treated to another great battle to decide the ask >metro Muriwai Open.
The Performance of Munn: Plaudits have flooded in for the performance of Joshua Munn and with good reason. The 20-year-old from the Manawatu Golf Club had a week to be proud of on the West Auckland links. His nine under 63 which broke the course record was pretty to watch as he putted like he wasn’t going to miss. I watched Munn for three holes of his magic run and he poured in two par putts from over 20 feet and a birdie from about the same range. His 21 putts in total was nothing short of world class. He began his round on the 10th tee and made birdies on made birdies on 10, 11, 12, 14, 1, 2, 5, 7 and 9 in a phenomenal run. Go and play Muriwai for yourself and you’ll see how remarkable this run was. Sir Bob Charles, talking from his home in Florida, knew it was some round of golf. “That is a fantastic performance and I would love to have been there to see it,” said Charles. “It is an honour to have my name associated with this tour and it is good to see the young golfers coming through and scoring well in tournament conditions.” But for Munn, to back it up for the next three rounds and hold on was just as impressive. He is a player for the future and one of the best things about his game is his attack at all costs approach. “He was very impressive,” said joint runner up Grant Moorhead. “He is one of a few top young guys in New Zealand who are fearless. It is good to see.”
Added depth in the women’s competition: In a Charles Tour first it was great to see a field of women professional contesting a title amongst the women amateurs. Names of the past like teaching professional Susan Farron, who led after round one, and Pam Sowden added real depth and experience to the field. There is no doubt that Lydia Ko is an exceptional talent. The World No.1 is in a class of her own but she was pushed all the way by a great performer in Phillis Meti. The Auckland professional, who won the World Long Drive Championship back in 2006, broke the women’s course record at Muriwai in round two. Muriwai suited her game as she could smash it from the tee and recover well from the rough. Meti and fellow professionals like Caroline Bon need 72 hole stroke play events in good fields to further their game and Lydia Ko needs to be pushed to keep improving and maintaining her position as the best amateur golfer in the world.
Srixon Academy men superb: Led by the performance of Russley golfer Keelan Kilpatrick the Srixon Academy played some outstanding golf at Muriwai. All of the players made the cut. Kilpatrick was a contender for the title until he made a costly triple bogey at the 16th. He finished fifth, New Zealand Amateur Champion Mathew Perry finished sixth and Sam An played solid golf all week to finish seventh. Ryan Fox finished in a share of 8th and Bradley Kendall T14th. Gore golfer Vaughan McCall showed his ability in the final round when he shot a four under 68 in the wind and the rain. In the clubhouse afterwards he said “It was just like home.”
The return to form of some of our top pros: It has been awhile between 72 hole stroke play events in New Zealand and the performance of names like Hamish Robertson and Grant Moorhead and even Marcus Wheelhouse, very much a part time touring pro these days, was good to see. Robertson, who has contended on the Charles Tour for some time now, held the lead with nine holes remaining and when it mattered most on the final few holes the Taihape pro came up with some great shot making. Moorhead is still chasing that elusive first win on the Charles Tour but his incredible run on Sunday where he got it to four under at one stage in atrocious conditions was great golf. Moorhead enjoyed one of the shots of the tournament when he holed out on the par 4 16th in round two. Wheelhouse, who finished third last year at Muriwai, struggled in the afternoon on Sunday but he had a solid week and finished as the fourth pro.
The Weather in the Pro-Am: For the sponsors the pro-am on the Wednesday is an important day. Last year the pro-am tournament was played in torrential rain and fast forward 12 months and the conditions were identical. It was a real shame as the golf was cancelled after nine holes with everyone soaked after the morning deluge. The following three days was for the most part perfect weather. Hopefully next year the sun will shine on the ask>metro Muriwai Open pro-am.
Breaching the rules: It was almost unbelievable. Auckland pro Hogan Cho’s tournament at Muriwai only lasted one hole after he was disqualified heading down the first when he used a laser to measure his distance to the hole. Rules officials explained to all of the golfers ahead of play that any measuring devices are a breach of the rules and Cho was sent home after hitting one shot.
The Links of Muriwai: New Zealand does not have many genuine links golf courses so the test of the Muriwai for our best players is a good one in the wind. The course held up well throughout the four days and the acid test for a links course is always the greens. The putting surface at the Muriwai was good for the week and with them running at about 10.5 on the stint meter they were at a speed that was manageable in the wind. There was a couple of testing pins on Sunday – notably the pin at the front of the green on 9 – that were a good challenge but not unplayable through the good work of the green keepers. The number of lost balls that the team out on course spent time looking for on Sunday, especially around 12 and 14, showed how hard this course can play when the wind whips off the West Coast.
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