The LawnMaster Classic attracted a capacity field at Manawatu Golf Club for another year, with a mixture of Professionals, the countries top amateurs, district representative players, and the tournament hopefuls such as myself.
The week kicked off with the popular Pro-Am on Tuesday, which gave amateur club players the opportunity to play alongside a professional player. The format was simple, the two top nett scores per hole counted toward the team score. The morning field consisted of 21 teams and the afternoon 32 teams. A bonus this year with the addition of the Horizon Golf Shootout to be played on Wednesdays is that the Professionals had something to play for, in trying to qualify for this event. Usually professionals treated the Pro-Am as a bit of a practise round, but this year most were trying to get into the top 7. The Pro-Am competition is necessary for the Manawatu Golf Club to bring in enough money to along with Sponsors pay for the $40,000 purse played for in the LawnMaster Classic.
I had the pleasure with playing with young Bay of Plenty pro Peter Lee, who was great to plag with. Peter's 73 was not enough to make the Shootout, but he did have some handy contributions to our team score, which helped us win the afternoon Pro-Am for the 2nd year in a row. A solid nett 63 from one of my team mebers off a 26 handicap proved to be our secret weapon, just like last year when he had a nett 61. I won't name this player in fear that he may be banned from the event in future.
On Wednesday players were given the opportunity to practice on the course, and at 2.45pm, the Horizon Golf Shootout got underway. The top qualifier from the day before was Waikato Pro, Mark Purser with an impressive 67, followed by Richard Lee on 68. Infact the qualifying mark was 70, and included local pro Alan Hyatt. The special guest for the Pro-Am was the 2002 Players Champion on the PGA Tour, and former Manawatu Golf Club Junior Golfer, Craig Perks. Craig was brought out to the event especially for the event and to celebrate his achievements as a local golfer that had won big on the world stage.
The format of the shootout involved 10 players starting on hole 10, with the player scoring the worst score on each hole eliminated until one player remained on the 18th hole. These events are popular with club players, but very unique to professional players. Ties for the worst score were decided by a chip off, where the furtherest from the hole was eliminated. Players could not watch where the other chips ended up, to make the chip off fair to all.
Just in time for the start of the Shootout the Manawatu winds became quite strong to really test the players. The starting hole the 10th was particularly difficult stright into the teeth of the wind. Only 3 pars were made and 2 players made double bogeys to provide the first chip off. Doug Hollaway survived and Josh Carmichael eliminated. Hole 11 was not played much better with the gusty winds providing a difficult shot into the short par 3. Any player that went even slightly long, was left with an extremely difficult putt or chip across and down the large tier in the green. With the greens running very quick the advantage lay with the players short of the hole with their approach. Leonard Morgan found himself with a very difficult bunker shot on the downhill slope at the back of the left trap, and left it in the sand. His third shot came out, but still left a long putt for bogey. This gave some brething room for the players left with almost impossible shots past the pin. Leonard missed his bogey, and was eliminated from the hole. Mark Purser joked saying that it felt like a 20 handicappers playoff so far. Down the 12th some of the players took advantage of the strong down wind to drive close to the green to set up birdies. Brad Shilton was the only payer to make bogey, after a difficult chip from behing the green.Play then moved on to the 3rd hole, and at one stage it looked like all players could make par, however a long birdie putt from Craig Perks meant he safely moved on and a surprise 3 putt from Richard Lee, meant he was eliminated with a bogey 5. The first of the Par 5's was very interesting with most of the players having to play seconds from the tree's. Only Craig Perks was able to hit the green in two, although it did run just off the back. In the end Mark Purser and Doug Holloway found themselves badly out of position making bogeys. Both played their chip off shots well, but Mark survived, meaning the end for Doug Holloway. Hole 15 the second of the Par 5's was looking likely to be halved by all players with Par's, however Craig Perks valiant effort ended after he 3 putted from the back of the green. Harry Bateman holed his third great putt in a row, to show that he meant business in this comp. Hole 16 the par 3 requiring a pin point shot over the bunker, was to become of Alan Hyatts great run in the contest. After the three other remaining players all fired in good tee shots Alan fired his through the back leaving a very difficult up and down. His eventual bogey meant he was eliminated as the other 3 players all lagged their putts close to the hole. Ben Willimas looked likely to be eliminated from hole 17, but holed a lengthy putt to force a chipoff against Harry Bateman. Organisers set a difficult shot of the trap downwind, requiring a pin point loft shot. Unfortunately Ben Williams left his shot in the trap, meaning Harry joined Mark Puser down the final hole. Ben collected $1,000 for his 3rd placing. Harry drove his ball long down the left side on the final hole while Mark Purser drove straight but into the rough in the small dip short of the green to the left of the fairway. Harry played from the long rough and his ball scooted through the green and over the back, leaving a delicate chip shot. Mark also scotted through the green but his ball stopped on the back fringe. Harry played a fantastic chip shot converting his par while Mark two putted for his. The event was therefore decided by a chip off, again over a greenside bunker. Both played good shots however Mark's stopped a little quicker and nearer the hole, for him to claim victory. The winning cheque was for $6,000.
That evening the club put on a dinner with special guest being Craig Perks. 180 tickets were sold for the dinner as it was a unique opportunity to hear from one of our countries most successful players. The evening also included the presentation of the Toro Men's team whom one last Decembers Interprovicial, the first time we had won for 49 years. It was great to make this presentation in such illustrious company. Chris Burn (Burnzee) interveiwed some other special guests including, Former NZ Cricket rep and now golf pro Alex Tait, last years LawnMaster Champion Grant Moorhead, Japan Tour professional Richard Lee, and Shootout winner Mark Purser. Burnzee extracted some quite good stories from these players who provided entertaining answers. Alex Tait provided to humour in reagrds to his accommodation at the event, and Richard Lee told quite an entertaining, if not slightly disturbing story involving his irritable bowel while in Asia.
The Manawatu Golf Club provided a good meal as always, which was followed by the main part of the evening - the interveiw with Craig Perks. Before Craig could speak an exceptionally well put together video was played of Craig Perks winning the Players Championship. If you have not seen it, you have missed out on one of the best finishes to any event in PGA history. This brought back great memories to everyone present, and was the perfect introduction for Craig. The interveiw with Craig was riveting entertainment, and many a great story was shared. With out a doubt Craig came across as a true gentleman of the game and a very inspirational speaker. An extremely good evening and well worth attending.
The LawnMaster Tournament
The LawnMaster Classic Tournament started Thursday morning with half the field off in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. The entire day was breezy, and gusts increased even more for the afternoon players. Conditions were difficult, however some players were still able to tame the conditions. Doug Holloway lead with a great 67.
Day 2 was also breezy but gusts were not to the same level as day one. This meant a slight improvement in scores with the mens cut set at 8 over par. The womens cut was at 11 over, playing off a slightly longer course than normal. Doug Holloway led the men after round 2, and Hana Seifert led the womens field. The total field was reduced to 72 players, 60 men and 12 women for the final two days.
Of the Manawatu players only a small percentage made the cut, including, Lachie McDonald, Josh Munn, Junior Tatana, Rhys Harold, Michael Birchall, Stu Smith, and myself (right on the number).
Day 3, moving day, had slightly calmer conditions with a number of players performing well to get into contention. The top Manawatu players were Lachie, Junior, Josh and Michael Bichall who had got his round to 5 under, before a few bogeys at the end of the round. Doug Holloway finished well to hold on to his lead.
Day 4, was a stunning day with no wind in the morning, but a breeze came up toward the end of the day. This created ideal scoring conditions. Junior Tatana fired a 67, after earlier rounds of 77, 70 and 68 to move to 6 under in 6th place overall and 2nd amateur behind NZ number 1 Vaughan McCall. Lachie McDonald finished a creditable 13th on even par and Josh Munn finished one shot further back at 1 over. Doug Holloway played staedy golf to fire a 1 under par final round and held on for a wire to wire win, 2 shots ahead of Harry Bateman.
The Womans title was won by the charging Mun Chin Keh from Titirangi, with a 3 over par total. Mun Chin fired a 5 under par round 68 in the final round. 2nd was Onyou Kim from Gulf Harbour. Unfortunately none of the Manawatu Wanganui players made the cut.
As for myself, well I should probably stick to playing Pro-Am's and smaller events rather than trying to foot it with the long hitting young players. A very dissapointing weekend of golf, possibly affected by a lack of fitness after 9 rounds of golf over 9 days. However I did enjoy the week, and played with some excellent company including Vikrant Chandra from Fiji.
Manawatu Wanganui Golf GDM"