TORO NZ MEN’S INTERPROVINCIAL – HIGHS AND LOWS OF A WEEK AT THE HAMILTON GC

18/12/2014

The Toro New Zealand Men’s Interprovincial is one of the most anticipated events on the local golf calendar for good reason. It is a tournament that everyone loves to be a part of. The 2014 edition at the Hamilton Golf Club was no exception and perhaps even more memorable with the home team’s remarkable win. NZ Golf Media and PR Manager Peter Thornton looks back over the Highs and Lows of a week at the Hamilton Golf Club. 

Where there is a will, there is a way: For so long Waikato has been one of the teams to beat on paper, but have rarely delivered. Not in 2014. Their performance was a group of young men maturing to deliver on their long-heralded potential. It was one of the most special moments in the recent history of Waikato Golf. Yes, they began the week as one of the favourites as the hosts, but being talked about as the favourite and winning the championship are two very different things. Waikato captain Luke Toomey summed up that pressure when he said the overwhelming feeling of making the semi-finals was one of relief. When they got to their first Saturday in the event since 2006, they were determined to make the most of it. Sam Vincent and Nick Coxon were superb in the final as they recorded wins to offset Mark Brooks’ (Otago) early point. It came down to Waikato’s Denzel Ieremia and Toomey to get them home. Ieremia, one of the young gentlemen of the game who has a big future, delivered the defining moment of the final when he sunk a 35 foot putt on 17 to take the advantage over the previously undefeated Brent McEwan.  From there, they were in the box seat and they finished it off in style. Drinking Waikato Draught with the lads in the clubhouse afterwards was a sweet moment for all the people who had put many years of preparation into a performance like this.  The Waikato Team photo with the trophy will take pride of place on the Waikato Golf wall alongside legends of the province like Steven Alker and Phil Tataurangi.

 

Toomey comes of age: I have said this before but Luke Toomey just keeps taking his game to another level. The 21-year-old from the Riverside Golf Club has enjoyed a dream season in 2014 (NZ Stroke Play Champion, Leading Individual at the SBS and runner-up at a pro event in Noumea) and he capped it in an appropriate way with a phenomenal week on home turf. The Waikato No.1 won eight from eight matches at the top of the order and he did so in fairytale fashion. In the final, he came up against a determined Duncan Croudis who birdied three holes in a four hole stretch to get back to all square. Standing on the 18th tee, Toomey knew he had to win the hole to complete his perfect winning record. Standing on the back of the green were all of his mates and around 300 locals who had come to will the Waikato team home. There was massive expectation and Toomey took it in stride and delivered. He hit his tee shot to 15 feet and then made a perfect putt to a mighty roar from the gallery. It was the ideal way for Toomey to finish it off and moments later he delivered the quote of the week. “Pure happiness and pride,” said Toomey of the winning moment. “If you cut me open I bleed Black, Red and Yellow. I’m just so proud of this group of guys to be part of this team as well. This is stuff that dreams are made of.”

Otago valiant in defeat: The Blue and Golds made their own piece of history when they knocked out the defending champions Manawatu – Wanganui (3.5 – 1.5) to book their place in the final for the first time in 16 years. Otago were worthy finalists. In Brent McEwan at No.3 they had one of the players of the tournament and Duncan Croudis did a fine job in their No.1 position. They fought tooth and nail in the final and came up short against a side who had played the Hamilton Golf Club a million times in their golfing careers. Croudis was proud of the team effort. “We tried our hearts out and that is all you can ask for,” said the 22-year-old from the Otago Golf Club. “The boys were phenomenal all week. It is a bit of a hollow feeling to come up short but the boys are still stoked.” It always depends on who sticks around and who is likely to turn pro, but this Otago side is capable of going on to win this title for the first time since 1982 next year at the Invercargill Golf Club. It will be a special time for their stalwart McEwan who will bring up 100 matches at the Toro Men’s Interprovincial. That will be a fine achievement.

Solid title defence: Manawatu – Wanganui were without doubt one of the teams to beat all week at the Hamilton Golf Club and they provided a solid defence of their title. They won five out of their six matches and amassed an impressive 22 individual points, the most of any team, to be the team to beat. Otago got them in their semi-final, but they should be proud of their run. They delivered a bit of history for their province when they won for the first time in 49 years last year at North Shore and many of their best have provided some outstanding moments in amateur golf.

The closeness of the competition: Every year, it comes down to Friday and 2014 was no exception. Getting out of Division One was pretty much mission impossible. There were four teams – Wellington, Northland, Auckland and North Harbour – all tied on 3.5 team points and the team from the capital advanced with the most individual wins (20). Northland, who lost to Auckland in what was a crucial match, could count themselves very unlucky with 17.5 individual points and they missed out. On the other side of the draw, Manawatu – Wanganui advanced with a degree of comfort and Waikato rallied on the final day. The hosts bounced back from a loss to Bay of Plenty to deny them a place in the semi-finals.

Speed golf debut at St Andrews: It is not often you have a course that is completely free of golfers, so when Thursday came with only one round being played, it was a perfect chance to make our speed golf debuts. TD Phil Aickin shot 79 at St Andrews in 56 minutes in an impressive performance, while I had 95 in 70 minutes. Phil was only one over par through nine holes in around 29 minutes. The greens were running at around 11 on the stimpmeter so that was pretty good scoring. For the uninitiated, Speed Golf works by adding up the time it takes to complete your round and your score. Simple formula and it is really playing golf without any mental clutter. A national champs in Rotorua is likely to be launched in 2015. Watch this space.

Shootout set to stay: It was the first time that the Toro New Zealand Men’s Interprovincial featured a shootout. All 15 provinces put forward one representative to hit to the famous par 3 18th from 100m out. There were some quality shots, but the New Zealand Amateur Champion Joshua Munn showed his class when he won the battle for bragging rights with a nine iron to five feet from the cup. It was a great addition to the Opening Ceremony of the event and one that is sure to stay for many years.

Good luck and good golfing: Special mention needs to be made of the effort from Waikato Golf throughout both of the tournaments. Chief Executive Terry Booth and his team were outstanding support and made sure their province would be put in the best light. Terry’s dulcet tones, with his customary sign off of ‘Good Luck and Good Golfing’, were always a highlight and elevated the delivery to world-class standing and Jennifer Livingston was all over the Live Scoring. All in all, Waikato Golf showed a whole new level of support for provinces to follow in this special national event.

The grass is greener in the Waikato: The city of Hamilton doesn’t always get the best reviews, but it is actually not that bad. The town was buzzing in the build-up to Christmas and there were plenty of great restaurants in the centre of town. The weather was perfect for the week of the men’s tournament at St Andrews and the course was in spectacular condition. Gavin Cornish, the Course Superintendent, and his team did a fantastic job of preparing the layout and the catering and bar staff were awesome to deal with. The people down there are as friendly and down to earth as you could hope for. We even had a couple of sporting celebrities – All Black Sam Cane and former Black Caps bowler Simon Doull – coming out to the course to check out the tournament on their home course. Maybe the tagline should be: Hamilton, not as bad as you think.

 

    OOM LEADERBOARD

    RANK PLAYER SCORE
    1 Lee, Jang Hyun 124.00
    2 Jones, Samuel 80.25
    3 Zheng, Jimmy 76.75
    4 Kobori, Kazuma 70.00
    5 Smail, Charlie 69.83
    RANK PLAYER SCORE
    1 Chung, Darae 100.13
    2 Son, Yeonsoo 86.85
    3 Kang, Sumin 69.60
    4 Kobori, Momoka 66.67
    5 Im, Amy 60.64