Postman Pete delivers
A BIKE accident as a kid closed the door on Pete Kerekere’s promising career in judo.
On Saturday he kicked the door open in the sport that replaced it.
The 28-year-old postman defeated Simon Jeune 3 and 1 for a maiden victory in the pinnacle event of Poverty Bay-East Coast golf — the Poverty Bay men’s open Keiha Cup matchplay crown.
Thirty-nine holes after teeing off in the semifinals early on Saturday, Kerekere shook hands with his 52-year-old opponent on the 17th green in the 80th edition of the tournament.
Kerekere and seven-time open champion Waka Donnelly traded blows for 22 holes in their semi, raising the prospect that the final might not be completed before dark.
When Donnelly missed a three-foot put on the 22nd (fourth hole) to deny him the chance of a record-equalling eight PB Open titles, Kerekere was taken by golf cart straight to the first tee where Jeune had been waiting patiently.
Jeune, who two weeks ago won his first senior men’s club championship at the Bay, booked his final berth in more conventional style — a 3 and 2 victory over 61-year-old Bruce Wilson.
It was his second time in the final. The first was 22 years ago when he lost to Tolaga Bay-raised Hawke’s Bay golfer Brian Clapp.
With both Kerekere and Jeune searching for a first PB Open win, the final had extra tension and nervous anticipation.
The methodical Kerekere won the first with par but Jeune struck back on the par-3 second by putting a 6-iron to within a metre, and slotted the putt for his birdie. He three-putted the third to go 1-down and also made a hash of the fifth to lose it and go 2-down.
Jeune played an excellent shot out of the right-hand trees on to the seventh green and the pair halved in pars.
Kerekere then executed what many felt was the shot of the day on the eighth — a superbly hit, wind-cheating 6-iron to five feet from the pin. Jeune’s second went just through the green, he was unable to up-and-down and Kerekere went 3-up.
Kerekere could justifiably argue the next two holes were pivotal.
He missed the green on the ninth and 10th but played lovely bunker shots — particularly on the ninth — to escape from both with halves.
Jeune left a 25-foot putt for birdie-2 for a win on the 11th agonisingly short but fired his third shot to three feet from the pin on the par-5 12th. Kerekere conceded the hole and the difference was two.
There were matching bogeys on the 13th and tricky 14th, where Jeune was victim of the fickle nature of this game. Had his attacking approach landed a foot shorter, he would have been all over the flagstick. Instead, he went through the back, which left him a nasty downhill shot.
He made up for that with a par on the 15th for the win after Kerekere hit his second shot a little fat and could only make bogey.
Kerekere went dormie 2-up with a par on the 16th after Jeune pushed his second into the wind into the right-hand bunker.
Jeune had a chance to at least extend the match to the 18th but pulled his second and could not up-and-down.
Kerekere only needed a two-putt bogey from six-feet to seal the win. He did it in one.
Having been runner-up once in the East Coast Open at Te Puia Springs and twice in the King of the Coast at Tolaga Bay, including this year when opponent Nathaniel Cassidy sank a wedge for eagle-2 on the 20th, Kerekere summed up his elation in one word . . . “finally”.
Had it not been for the carefree and sometimes reckless nature of children, this might never have happened.
Kerekere was a club champion and blue-belt judoka as a kid but broke two bones in his left arm when he “flipped off” his bike.
Two plates were inserted and he attempted a return to the mats, but the injury was too much.
“Dad (John) was always trying to get me into golf, and said to me again, ‘Come to golf,’ so I did.”
Kerekere dedicated the win to his father and reckoned there was a hint of a tear in his dad’s eye.
“I’ve never seen him cry.”
In a prize-giving speech that matched his champion performance, Kerekere acknowledged all those who had helped him in a career that has seen him represent Poverty Bay-East Coast up to national interprovincial level and become the lowest-handicapped player in the region.
Topping the list was his mother (Val) and father, “who have been supportive of me from day one”, partner Cherie and good mate, caddie and fellow PBEC rep William Brown, who he said had helped turn his game around.
It was 2012 PB Open winner Brown who gave him a pep talk after he struggled to 83 in the opening qualifying round on Thursday. Kerekere came back to shoot 2-under 70 — the round of the tournament.
He also paid tribute to Donnelly — saying it was “a dream come true” to play against and beat a “legend” of the open — Jeune, Arthur and Daphne Bacon, who did so much for him in his junior years, and pro Dave Keown.
For Jeune, it simply was not his time. He can, however, reflect on one of the best years of his distinguished career: runner-up in the East Coast open, unbeaten on the way to leading Poverty Bay to the interclub pennants title, senior club champion and Saturday’s runner-up performance.
Other section winners were Alex Kirkpatrick (Poverty Bay, 2nd 16), Pat Butler (PB, 3rd 16), Tim Sherratt (PB, 4th 16), Edward Jefferd (Tahunga, 5th 16) and Roy Skuse (PB, 6th 16).
Matthew Watts, who made it to the quarterfinals of the first 16, was awarded the Bill Donnelly Memorial Trophy for best junior performance.