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Coast throne under threat from outsiders

RECIPROCATING support has snowballed into probably the lowest-handicapped field in the history of the King of the Coast men’s open at Tolaga Bay this weekend.

The handicap cut-off for the championship 16 is 3.5, thanks significantly to an influx of outside talent.

That increases the prospects of a visitor heading home with “royal” status after two days of matchplay, heavily mixed with typically generous Coast hospitality.

Te Puia Springs Golf Club can take a decent dollop of credit for the outside challenge, which has a strong theme of “whanau”.

Among those entered for the first time are brothers Jordan and Aaron Rangihika and Aaron’s son Zane, all of Kawerau, and Hawke’s Bay representative brothers Tyson and Kaleb Tawera.

All but Aaron will be in the first 16.

Jordan Rangihika, a schoolteacher in Hamilton and member of the Ngaruawahia and Kawerau golf clubs, said Te Puia Springs members Mopey Devery (now in Australia), Ian Sykes and Dick Cook used to regularly attend a 54-hole tournament in Kawerau.

“My brother and I thought it was about time we came to the Coast to repay the favour.”

They got to talking about it at this year’s Maori nationals in Taupo, where Aaron recruited a few others from Kawerau and a cousin from Opotiki.

“Next thing you know, everyone was in,” Jordan said.

“Other boys from Hastings, Waikato and Opotiki heard about it, so they decided to jump on board, too.

“My father (Syd) went to Te Puia for the East Coast Open a couple of years in a row, so we thought it was about time we gave back.”

Also in this year’s field is the now-regular Cortesi family contingent from Tokoroa, this time represented by Brown, Kurtis, Gavin and William — relatives of Tolaga Bay couple Alvie and John Hale.

Kurtis and Gavin will be in the top flight.

Their cousin, Nathaniel Cassidy, is returning two years after his memorable KoTC victory when he sank a wedge for an eagle-2 on the 20th hole to win the final against Gisborne’s Peter Kerekere.

Nearly half of the field are from out of town. They include Ricki Bowen’s annual pilgrimage of Bay of Plenty players — plus one from Christchurch — which is 10-strong this year.

For a visitor to ascend to the crown, however, he must combat and conquer a local battalion with plenty of firepower.

Kerekere is set to mount a staunch defence of the title he won for the second time in 2016. The Gisborne postman has been putting the hard work into his game as he looks to add more successes to his impressive collection before he becomes a first-time father (to twins due in January).

Sub-par performances on Sunday (68) and Tuesday (66) at his home Bay course signalled his intentions, and he will tee off tomorrow morning as the No.1 seed.

Fellow Poverty Bay-East Coast representative William Brown will also be in the mix and has plenty of incentive. Brown has been runner-up three times (2011, 2012, 2014), plus a victory would complete the career “Grand Slam” of the East Coast Open, Poverty Bay Open and KoTC titles.

Two multiple winners are back for another shot — Te Puia/Poverty Bay member Andrew Higham (2004, 2012, 2013) and Mahia’s Pete Bremner (2009, 2010) — and both are capable of adding to their lists.

Tony Akroyd proved with last year’s runner-up finish that he could add a second KoTC success to his honours board 16 years after his 2001 triumph.

Among those seeking a breakthrough win is in-form Pete Anderson, who will challenge strongly if he can lift his putting to the high standard of the rest of his game.

Most, if not all, of the leading players are pure strikers of a ball. It’s highly likely that the short game will be where this tournament is won.

TOP SEED: Defending champion Peter Kerekere warmed up for this weekend’s Ray Scragg Motors King of the Coast men’s open at Tolaga Bay with sub-par rounds at his home Poverty Bay track on Sunday and Tuesday. Picture by Paul Rickard