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Brown wins his second Open

Heavy hitting and delicate short game prove key.

Power. Finesse.

William Brown combined those opposing attributes brilliantly on Saturday as he became a Poverty Bay men’s open two-time champion on the course he helped produce.

Greenkeeper Brown defeated Electrinet Park member Anaru Reedy 3 and 2 in the Keiha Cup championship 16 final at the Awapuni Links/Poverty Bay track.

His last act was sinking a 1½-foot par putt after a wonderful bunker shot on the 16th, adding 2020 to his 2012 Open win.

At 5.30am, as one of the Bay’s three greenkeepers, Brown had been out on the course getting it ready for the finale of the Emerre and Hathaway-sponsored tournament.

And only minutes after making birdie on the 19th hole of his semifinal match to beat former Poverty Bay member David Solomann on Saturday morning, Brown was teeing off in an all-local 18-hole matchplay final.

Top qualifier Reedy disposed of Akarana member Andrew Wright on the 18th in their semifinal and when Brown got past 1995 Open winner Solomann (now at Auckland’s Whitford Park), it set up a rematch between two former New Zealand Maori champions.

Brown beat Reedy in the 2019 senior men’s club championship final at Poverty Bay before Reedy transferred to Park this year – winning the senior club champion title last weekend.

The battle of the city clubs was also a duel between generations — Reedy, or “Ru” as he is known, is 49; Brown, or “Wi” as he is known, is 27.

Reedy was also looking to make it three masters-aged (40 years-plus) players to have won the title three years running — Pete Anderson won it in 2018, Simon Jeune last year.

Brown put a halt to that with a performance that melded breathtaking distance with deft touch.

He went 1-up on the par-5 first hole when he crunched a 3-iron on to the green for two to set up a birdie.

Reedy reacted instantly, caressing a 5-iron to five feet from the pin on the par-3 second hole, and sinking the birdie putt.

Reedy’s approach was about finding the middle of the fairway off the tee, and attacking from there.

Brown simply unleashed off the tee, much to the awe of an appreciative crowd.

On the par-5 fifth, Brown monstered a 300-metre drive, then hit in an 8-iron, which he converted to birdie and the win to go 2-up.

He made birdie on the seventh for a 3-up lead and a par on the eighth after another huge drive was good enough to move to 4-up.

Reedy did not miss a fairway in the opening nine holes but, other than on his second-hole birdie, battled to get his short game going.

Brown handed Reedy the ninth hole when he thinned his second shot into a branch and ended up making double-bogey to be 2-up at the turn.

But Reedy’s only errant drive of the match — on the 10th — led to a bogey and Brown, having put his second to almost-gimme-birdie distance, returned to 3-up.

Matching bogeys on the 11th were followed by Brown’s second mishap. He hit a hybrid-club tee shot out of bounds on the 12th and Reedy, yet again down the middle, reduced the deficit to 2-down.

The pair traded pars on the 13th hole and birdies on the short par-4 14th.

The match looked all over on 15 when Brown crunched another drive into what is known as “the dip” way down the fairway and Reedy pushed his second shot into a bunker on the right — his ball plugging into the sand.

He exploded his sand shot to 12 feet from the pin, then sank the putt for par to stay alive.

That lasted just one more hole.

Brown took iron off the 16th tee, but hit his second into the right pot bunker. And while his power game off the tee had been a feature, it should be noted that his short game was pretty darn good as well.

He played a sublime shot under pressure, and slotted a short par putt to add the Poverty Bay Open crown to the King of the Coast Open title he won at Tolaga Bay this year.

These two titles are part of the “Triple Crown” of Poverty Bay-East Coast golf. The third is the East Coast Open at Te Puia Springs, which was cancelled due to Covid-19.

The championship-16 final was the climax of one of the most successful Poverty Bay open tournaments in many years.

This year’s field was 112-strong. A good percentage of those golfers came from outside the district. They love the course and the tournament format.

Among them were a strong Matamata contingent determined to take the Keiha Cup to the Waikato and while unsuccessful in 2020, they confirmed they would be back.

Six other division finals were held on Saturday, all played off handicap.

Nearly as popular as Brown’s top-division victory was teenager Zach Rolls’s win in the second 16. The dual Park/Poverty Bay member beat another young man, Tom Needham (Poverty Bay) 3 and 2.

Rolls also won the Bill Donnelly Memorial Trophy awarded to the top junior performer. It was presented by Bill’s son and seven-time PB Open winner Waka Donnelly, whom Rolls beat on the way to the final.

The third-16 final was between 2007 Open winner Tony Akroyd and 2017 runner-up Stefan Andreassen. Andreassen won on the 20th.

Richard Foon (Poverty Bay) beat Duncan Chrisp (Te Puke) 1-up in the fourth-16 final; Paul Mullooly (PB) beat Cam Cormack (Royal Auckland and Grange) 4 and 3 in the fifth-16 final; Steve Bell (Royal Auckland and Grange) beat Warwick Thompson (PB) in the sixth-16 final; and Jon De Groen (Royal Wellington) beat Andrew Watene (Hutt Park) in the seventh-16 final.

The tournament came to a dramatic conclusion with the final of the $1000 winner-take-all nearest-pin challenge.

Six players qualified for the final, held on the 18th hole after the conclusion of all division finals.

The six had two shots each from 110 metres out from the 18th green – the closest pocketing the loot.

Home-course player Peter Clayton won it and probably deservedly so.

Clayton qualified for the top 16 and played more holes than any other player over the three-day tournament. Three sudden-death playoffs were included in the 110 holes he played.

CHAMPION AGAIN: William Brown on Saturday added the 2020 Poverty Bay men’s golf open crown to his 2012 victory at the Awapuni Links course he works at. Greenkeeper Brown beat Anaru Reedy 3 and 2 in the 18-hole matchplay final. Pictures by Paul Rickard
IN A PURPLE PATCH: Teenager Zach Rolls added the second-16 title at the Poverty Bay men’s open on Saturday to the intermediate club championship title he won at the course last month. Rolls was also awarded the Bill Donnelly Memorial Trophy for top junior performance at the Open.