The John Jones Steel Harewood Open of 2013 on The Charles Tour must be considered as an overwhelming success. The only event of the local series in the South Island this year attracted more players, higher profile golfers like Josh Geary, and was well supported by the locals throughout the week. The Charles Tour has proved to be a key pathway for New Zealand Golf and we hope to develop it further in 2014 and beyond. For now we reflect on the final event this year and the season in 2013.

Protégée teaches his mentor a lesson: For many, including the champion himself, the lasting memory from the 2013 John Jones Steel Harewood Open will be James Hamilton’s magnificent eagle on the 72nd hole to win by two strokes. The Omanu golfer, who attended short-game and swing clinics from his mentor Josh Geary growing up in the Bay of Plenty, delivered the grandstand finish to upset the three-time Charles Tour champion. The 24-year-old made a clutch birdie on the 17th to get into a share of the lead and then hit the par five in two and made the eagle to claim his first Charles Tour title. What Hamilton had achieved only really hit him when he was surrounded by a big group of mates and had to do interviews with the media shortly afterwards. It was great to see the raw emotion of what this win meant to him. Here’s hoping that this is a significant moment in the career of James Hamilton going forward. His first four round win as a professional was hard fought and well earned from a quality field. He proved to everyone, including himself, just what he is capable of. Seeing him surrounded by his mates with a few beers afterwards with a massive smile on his face was a fitting image of what golf is all about.

Best finish of a Charles Tour event? There have been a few goodies. This year Grant Moorhead holding off a fast-finishing Luke Toomey at the LawnMaster Classic and Fraser Wilkin’s eagle on 18 to defeat local Brad Hayward were memorable ones. Doug Holloway defeated up-and comer Danny Lee in the inaugural Wairakei Open (2006), Michael Hendry beat good mate Richard Lee in the inaugural ask>metro Muriwai Open and Josh Geary’s defeat of Moorhead in the playoff of the 2008 Carrus Open are others that spring to mind as special finishes in the men’s championships. Emily Perry’s playoff win over Cecilia Cho in 2010 at Muriwai, Lydia Ko’s birdie on the last at Muriwai last year to break the course record and Mun Chin Keh’s come from behind win at the same venue this year are other memorable chapters in the annals of the local series. But Hamilton’s birdie-eagle finish has to rank up there with the finest. It was a remarkable way for a rookie, under pressure, to record his maiden win.

Geary gracious in defeat: The favourite just had one of those days. Josh Geary was odds-on to win his first Charles Tour title away from Tauranga and join Michael Hendry and Doug Holloway as the most successful player on the local tour. He took the lead early with back-to-back birdies on one and two and from there everyone expected him to continue all the way to the title. Not this time. He had at least six putts lip-out for birdie throughout the final round as Hamilton fought hard to stay in touch. Still as frustrated as he was, Geary was gracious in defeat. His presence in the field was huge for the tournament and hopefully we’ll see more of him in 2014. When players like Hamilton win their first Charles Tour title and it is a player of Geary’s calibre they have held off then it means so much more.

Alvarez just keeps getting better: All of a sudden, with former World No.1 amateur Lydia Ko joining the professional ranks, the women’s game in New Zealand has changed. NZ Golf needs the elite women to step up in her absence and Julianne Alvarez looks like just the woman for the job. Alongside Auckland No.1 Mun Chin Keh, Alvarez has been the most consistent player on the local tour in 2013. She came in under the pressure of being the defending champion and delivered once again to record her third win of the season. Alvarez, now a two-time winner on The Charles Tour, earlier this year claimed the New Zealand Amateur Championship and the New Zealand Under 19 title. Alvarez has always been known for her ball striking – she is arguably one of the best in the country tee to green – but it is her short game that has come on leaps and bounds. Like she said: “You are going to miss plenty of greens when it is windy like that but if you can chip and putt well it is sweet as.” Its early days but Alvarez and Keh shape as the frontrunners for the Espirito Santo team for next year in Japan.

Seeing the Harewood for the trees: A few years ago, the Board and the Manager at Harewood Golf Club has a moment of genius when they employed the services of Greg Turner and Scott McPherson to re-design their course. We said this last year but it is worth another mention. Harewood, with its comprehensive turf coverage, was in the best condition I have ever seen it. Credit here has to the green-keeper Colin Posa for delivering a test that was tough but fair in the gale-force winds. If the greens were any quicker then the play would have been called off every other minute in the wind. Special mention also has to be made here about the off-course staff. Manager Rod Latham and his right hand lady Lisa Rogers are always superb to deal with. Rod was able to play in the event and anything that was asked of Lisa was never a problem.

Right call made: Tournament Director Dave Mangan had to make a decision. Massive branches were falling down on course and there were all sorts of debris making life on course dangerous. It was chaos. The wind was whipping through at around 100km per hour. I know that Christchurch is famous for its wind (if it’s not it should be) but this was ridiculous. The delay meant for a long round two but it was good to get it in. Credit has to be given for the players who rushed to complete their rounds and also the volunteers and referees who battled in the cold and the dark to get it done.

A great year of champions: The Charles Tour this year has produced some quality winners. Grant Moorhead cried tears of joy when he broke through at Manawatu, Fraser Wilkin eagled the 72nd hole in Taranaki to win by one, Michael Hendry and Josh Geary delivered on their favourite status to claim the titles at Muriwai and Tauranga respectively and Hamilton maiden win was a great moment to witness. In the women Lita Guo won her first national title at the LawnMaster, Taranaki pro Sally Choi enjoyed a fine home win at Ngamotu, Mun Chin Keh won back to back titles at Muriwai and Tauranga and Alvarez defended her title at Harewood. Quality winners – bring on 2014.



    1 Hydes, James 187.28
    2 Kobori, Kazuma 148.33
    3 Thompson, Mako 110.28
    4 Zheng, Jimmy 104.38
    5 Jones, Samuel 93.31
    1 Chung, Darae 218.92
    2 Kobori, Momoka 159.50
    3 Xu, Fiona 128.24
    4 Son, Yeonsoo 96.58
    5 Lu, Vivian 91.25