The New Plymouth Golf Club hosted the Taranaki Open for the 10th straight year last week. It was a fine achievement for the club and district. The tournament has a proud record of producing great champions. Players like Doug Holloway, Brad Iles, Mark Brown and Michael Hendry have won on the Ngamotu Links and that tradition continued with a fine battle on Sunday for the title.


The support of Taranaki District: It was fitting that after 10 years of such loyal service to his district in this event David McCallum has decided to step aside as the CEO of Taranaki Golf. Without him there is no doubt that this tournament simply wouldn’t be what it is and wouldn’t attract the quality of players that it does. The record of hosting 10 events in a row – dating back to 2004 under all the different guises of the GTNZ Series and now the Charles Tour – is some achievement in the current golfing climate. It is a record that no other club or district in New Zealand has been able to match. Long may it continue.

The scoring: Yes the golf course is a different test since the tournament was moved from late September to early April but it wasn’t playing this easy. There was enough wind on the back nine to affect the shot making of the leaders and make the course no walk in the park. The scoring with Auckland pro Fraser Wilkin claiming the title on a 22 under par total by one shot from Brad Hayward was ridiculously good. Two-time champion Troy Ropiha was third on 18 under par as the final group shot the lights out over four days over this respected layout. The leading group’s total on moving day of 16 under par summed it up really. It is great to see a lead group playing attacking golf and not winning a tournament by protecting their lead and playing par golf. It is this sort of golf that is going to be good enough to win titles on the international scene.

Wilkin coming of age: Fraser Wilkin was up against it on Sunday afternoon. He was playing alongside New Plymouth amateur Brad Hayward and former local Troy Ropiha and there was no doubt that the locals weren’t rooting for him to win. It was a world away from his first Charles Tour win at Muriwai on a course he had played plenty and alongside his good mate Ryan Fox. It was out of his comfort zone and pushed Wilkin to his limit and he responded in fine style. His final round seven under par 65 – that included a must make eagle on the 72nd to win by one- was impressive in the conditions and could be seen as a time when he came of age. It was his first four round win as a professional and will give him a huge amount of confidence heading into his title defence at the Muriwai Golf Club. The former NZ rep knows that he has the game and the composure to win when he gets himself in contention.

Hayward shows his class: The runner-up performance of Brad Hayward was impressive in its own right. The 21-year-old from the New Plymouth Golf Club took a three shot lead into the final round but it wasn’t his day. The putts that dropped from everywhere in the third round when he carded an incredible eight under par 64 were just missing in the final round but he handled the pressure and the occasion superbly. The fact that he fought right to the last with an eagle on the 72nd hole from around 15 feet to force Wilkin to make his was a great sign of his character. On any other Taranaki Open Hayward would have claimed the title but for a special performance from Wilkin. He won the leading amateur title for the second time at his home event. It would be good to see him carry this form around the country to other events and show that he can go low at not just his home track. He is good enough to.

Competition in the women’s field: Too often in Charles Tour events we have seen the women’s title won easily by a player be in Emily Perry or Lydia Ko but not on this occasion. The two time Taranaki Open Champion Emily Perry looked to be in control but was locked in a great battle with eventual winner Sally Choi and Waikato amateur Hanna Seifert. Any one of them could win going down the final hole and it is that sort of competition that we need at a national level to produce golfers of a higher calibre. We need more players going low consistently to set a high standard in our women’s events.

The support of the club: The new club manager Simon Rowe has been a great signing for the Ngamotu Links. He has a real knack for rolling his sleeves up and getting stuck into whatever needs to happen at the course. Rowe was right in the thick of the food and beverage team barking orders to the chef and running the show, he entertained the golfers after the pro-am with some classic jokes and anything around the event that needed to happen was never a problem. His attitude was infectious and seemed to filter through the staff and volunteers at the club. There is a reason that this course has hosted 10 Taranaki Opens. The local people get behind it and make it happen.




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