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NZ amateur a stepping stone to pro success

WHO would have thought it?

That 14 years after five-putting the first hole on the Poverty Bay course during the New Zealand amateur, Michael Campbell would be holding up the 2005 US Open Trophy.

Who would have thought the 1991 NZ amateur would be a step on a path that would lead to a young Maori from Titahi Bay capturing one of the ultimate honours in golf and becoming one of the world’s leading players.

Campbell’s amateur adventures will be emulated by a new wave of prospective professionals in 2020 when Poverty Bay hosts the New Zealand strokeplay championship.

The 125-year-old club — one of the oldest in the country — was this week confirmed as the venue for the 72-hole tournament at which men’s and women’s champions will be crowned.

The Bay course, if weather conditions are conducive, will be at the mercy of the best amateur players in the country, along with some overseas talent — 100 men and 56 women in total.

The potential is immense. Galleries will get to see in the flesh the highest possible level of New Zealand amateur golf of a quality never seen here before bar the several professional tournaments the club has hosted.

Having the women playing alongside the men will only enhance that, and it is likely the women’s course record of 4-under 70 will be broken.

Sixteen-year-old Cantabrian Julia Hung won the rain-affected New Zealand women’s strokeplay title at Paraparaumu Beach in March with an 8-under 214 highlighted by an opening round 6-under 68.

As to whether the men’s championship course record of 8-under 64 will go, why not?

Wellington’s Kerry Mountcastle, son of former Poverty Bay-East Coast representative Paul Mountcastle, won the NZ men’s strokeplay at Paraparaumu Beach, totalling 12-under for 54 holes including a 9-under 62.

Christchurch’s Oscar Cadenhead had an incredible 22 birdies in his 14-under total that won him the 2013 North Island amateur held at Poverty Bay.

It’s no wonder Poverty Bay club manager Dave Keown says it is “exciting times for the club”.

He sees it also as a great opportunity to promote the course as a destination — “to endorse our product” to “get people wanting to come and play here”.

To that effect, the men and women of the club will combine forces, similar to their current preparations for the club’s 125th commemorations.

The 2020 NZ strokeplay will be arguably the most prestigious amateur tournament held at Poverty Bay — a club with a hosting history that includes three North Island championships, the NZ men’s amateur and national interprovincials.

And if it produces the drama similar to that of 1991, spectators and players alike will go away with life-long memories.

The 1991 tournament featured strokeplay and matchplay titles.

Taranaki’s Grant Moorhead won the strokeplay with 5-under 281, five shots ahead of Australian Stephen Leaney, who went on to win four European Tour titles and finish second at the 2003 US Open.

Australian Lucas Parsons won the 36-hole matchplay crown, beating Moorhead 2 and 1 in a final hammered by heavy rain, which forced organisers to send in teams armed with squeegees as the greens flooded.

That field also featured Stuart Appleby, who set a course record 6-under 66 in the strokeplay, and fellow Australian Robert Allenby.

Both went on to forge successsful professional careers; Appleby winning nine PGA Tour titles and recording multiple top 10 placings in the majors, including second-equal at the 2002 Open Championship; Allenby winning four times on the PGA Tour, four on the European Tour and 13 on the PGA Tour of Australasia.

Other notable names in the class of 1991 were Phil Tataurangi, a one-time PGA Tour winner-turned-golf commentator, Australian Richard Green and Kiwi Michael Long.

Oh so close: Grant Moorhead all but sank this attempt on the 11th hole at Poverty Bay during the New Zealand men’s amateur matchplay final against Australian Lucas Parsons. The players and large gallery braved heavy rain, which flooded greens during the 36-hole final won 2 and 1 by Parsons. The 2020 New Zealand men’s and women’s strokeplay championships are to be held at Poverty Bay.Gisborne Herald file picture