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Tyson crowned Coast king,Tops one of the best fields in Tolaga Bay tourney’s history

HE didn’t need a dragon.

Or an army.

Tyson Tawera’s “swords” proved sharp enough to win a golfing Game of Thrones as the 2017 Ray Scragg Motors King of the Coast was crowned on a winter-blasted Tolaga Bay battlefield on Sunday.

Twenty-two-year-old Hastings member and Hawke’s Bay representative Tawera defeated Whakaki farmer Peter Bremner to top one of the best fields assembled in the history of the two-day men’s open matchplay tournament.

Chock-full of KotC champions dating back to the 1990s and plenty of local and outside talent, it was certainly the lowest-handicapped. The cut-off for the top group was 3.7.

Big-hitting Wainuiomata golfer Johnny “Shoe” Schaafhausen slipped in as the 16th and bottom qualifier in the championship 16, then proceeded to oust defending champion and No.1 seed Peter Kerekere 2 and 1 in the first round — reflecting the anyone-can-win-on-the-day quality of the group.

Tawera, playing in the KotC for the first time, beat Patutahi teenager Regan Hindmarsh in the first round.

Tokoroa’s Nathaniel Cassidy, who won the title in 2015 and survived an extra holes duel with Poverty Bay’s Pete Anderson in his first-round match, was Tawera’s next victim, setting up a semifinal against Poverty Bay greenkeeper William Brown.

The pair know each other well, including a 2016 match-up at the national interprovincial between Hawke’s Bay and Poverty Bay-East Coast.

Brown’s PBEC side won the war that day but Tyson beat Brown 2 and 1 in their individual battle and repeated the 17th-hole success on Sunday morning.

A couple of putts was all that divided the pair and Brown was left to wait another year to get his hands on an elusive first KotC title. He has been runner-up three times.

Long-time Mahia club member Bremner, a two-time KotC champion, blew away three-time winner Andrew Higham (Te Puia Springs) in the first round.

Next up was the big-bearded former long-driving specialist “Shoe”, whose surname had caused organisers all sorts of consternation spelling and pronunciation-wise, hence his nickname.

Johnny “Shoe” had been banging his 3-wood past most of the players’ drivers but couldn’t match Bremner’s consistency.

The quarterfinal win pitted Bremner against Poverty Bay and 2014 KotC champion Tini Hawea, who had gotten rid of two KotC first-timers — Zane Rangihika, followed by uncle Jordan Rangihika (both of Kawerau).

The Bremner-Hawea semifinal went all the way to the 18th. Hawea threw three twos at a player well over twice his age but it wasn’t enough. Hawea did end up with the impressive tally of seven twos on the par-3s over the four rounds.

The final was a rematch from a 2015 representative fixture between Bremner (playing for PBEC) and Tawera (Hawke’s Bay) at the Poverty Bay course.

Bremner won that one 3 and 1 but Tawera got his revenge, with interest.

Bremner appeared to be struggling with a lower back injury, bringing back memories of 2010 when he wore a back brace to alleviate the discomfort of a recently ruptured sciatic disc and went on to retain the title.

Not this time. By the 10th tee, Tawera was 3-up and he reinforced his advantage to be 5-up with five to play, and the pair shook hands on the 14th.

In other divisions, Dion Milner (Tolaga Bay) beat Shayde Skudder (Patutahi) in the Cook Handicap second 16 final; Daren Thompson beat Springfield clubmate Craig Tiriana in the Uawa Handicap third 16 final; and Jeremy Murphy (Tolaga Bay) beat Ricki Bowen (Golf Warehouse Hutt Park) in the Hauiti Handicap fourth 16 final.

The Tolaga Bay course proved a much stiffer challenge than the distances on the card suggest. A stiff southerly, icy temperatures — one teeth-chattering player said he could not remember playing in colder weather — and recent rain transformed several holes into beasts length-wise.

However, the typically brilliant Coast hospitality was lapped up by the visitors, who contributed immensely to the club’s bar profits at what is Tolaga Bay’s main fundraiser for the year.

A good number of the top players tasting the KotC for the first time not only indicated they would be back next year, they also showed interest in competing in the 2018 East Coast Open at Te Puia Springs.

COME AND GET IT: Hawke’s Bay golfer Tyson Tawera is defending the King of the Coast crown at Tolaga Bay this weekend. Picture by Paul Rickard
Mahia’s Pete Bremner