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Opportunity for tribute

THE spirit of Poverty Bay Open great Frank Gordon will hang heavily over the 82nd edition, which tees off tomorrow.

The most prolific winner of the district’s signature men’s tournament — eight times over the period from 1952 to 1969 — died aged 87 in Hawke’s Bay in July.

Two players in the 2017 field have the opportunity to pay a special tribute to him on the Poverty Bay course over the next three days.

Waka Donnelly, a former Te Puia Springs and Poverty Bay member now based in Napier, is only one Open win away from equalling Gordon’s record title count.

Should defending champion Peter Kerekere win, he and Gordon would be the only players in the tournament’s 86-year history to win the Open three years running.

Gordon achieved this from 1960 to 1962.

Donnelly is not rating his own chances highly. His last Open win was in 2010 and he last made the final in 2013. Recent form even has him perhaps harshly suggesting he will struggle to make the championship 16 from the 36-hole strokeplay qualifying tomorrow.

Kerekere, on the other hand, is among the front-runners, and has extra incentive to complete the hat-trick.

He will not be part of the Poverty Bay-East Coast squad at the national interprovincial in December as his partner is due to give birth to twin girls in January.

That means the Open will be his last major opportunity for 2017 success after he fell short at the King of the Coast and Poverty Bay senior men’s club championships.

Among those also eyeing Open glory are East Coast Open champion Anaru Reedy and Poverty Bay senior club champion Andrew Higham.

Reedy, arguably the purest striker in the field, spearheads a powerful over-40s challenge and is hungry to capture a first Open title.

Higham won the Open in 2014 after top-qualifying. He did the same in the recent club championships to stamp an exclamation mark on his ability to step up in the big events.

One of the men behind a Poverty Bay course a fellow Open contender yesterday described as “mint” is also expected to be in the mix again.

Poverty Bay greenkeeper William Brown won the title in 2012 and has made the final in two of the past three years.

He probably should have won it last year. His putting proved his downfall, so if his flat stick is on song, he should be there come the business end.

Joining Reedy and Donnelly as genuine title contenders from the masters (over-40s) brigade are Simon Jeune and Pete Anderson.

Tony Akroyd, who turns 40 in November, is out to add a second Open crown to the title he won as a 29-year-old in 2007.

The local dark horse is Patutahi senior club champion Shayde Skudder — an immensely talented player yet to realise this potential at the higher level — while Gisborne Park senior champion Jayden Bright could frighten the bigger names.

Among the visiting contingent are 1995 Open winner and former Gisborne man David Solomann (now at the Wattle Downs course in Auckland), former Wellington representative Sam Clemens (Royal Wellington) and Kaleb Tawera (Maraenui), whose brother Tyson won the King of the Coast at Tolaga Bay this year.

While Open champions such as Gordon are celebrated in headlines and gold lettering on the honours board, there are many other players who have made their mark as personalities.

One of these is Jock McLean — son of celebrated sports journalist T.P. McLean.

Jock was a long-time supporter of the Open but died last month at the age of 69 after a short illness. He will be missed.

The draw for the first round of strokeplay qualifying in the Emerre and Hathaway Poverty Bay men’s open at the Poverty Bay course tomorrow is — No.1 tee, 7am: Sean Shivnan, Tony Thorpe, Gerald Kemp, Peter Young. 7.08: Sam Willock, Bill Simpson, Rod Inglis, Roy Skuse. 7.16: Mark Barker, Michael Parsons, Jonathan De Groen, Paul Mullooly. 7.24: Richard Foon, Mark Norman, Glen Kane, Ken White. 7:32: Jason Carmichael, Mark Landl, Colin Thornton, Kim Travers. 7.40: Mark Thomas, Frank Ball, Brian Kane, Don Griffin. 7.48: Neil Mackie, Mike Johanssen, Brad Reynolds, Thomas Donovan. 7.56: Mathew Champness, Glenn Morley, Peter Clayton, Wynne MacLellan. 8.04: Andrew Hay, Kaleb Tawera, David Solomann, Jayden Bright. 8.12: Tony Akroyd, Waka Donnelly, Pete Anderson, Samuel Clemens.

No.10, 7am: Warwick Thompson, Ross Kane, Grant Bramwell, Ewan Atherton. 7.08: David Mettrick, John Pittar, Bruce Talbot, Colin Christie. 7.16: Andrew James, Andy Hayward, James McGregor, Barry Mathews. 7.24: Gray Clapham, David Pirimona, Duncan Chrisp, Anthony Pahina. 7.32: Craig Rock, Mark Thomson, Clive Dean, Max Browning. 7.40: Rodney Montford, Torben Landl, George Brown, Tim Mackie. 7.48: Tene Goldsmith, Richard Foddy, Peter Gregory, Alex Kirkpatrick. 7.56: John van Helden, Marcel Campbell, Edward Brown jr, Stefan Andreassen. 8.04: Shayde Skudder, Simon Jeune, Jackson Kane, John Wyllie. 8.12: Anaru Reedy, William Brown, Peter Kerekere, Andrew Higham.

Reverse tees for afternoon round.

HAT-TRICK BID: Poverty Bay Open defending champion Peter Kerekere would be only the second player, after Frank Gordon, to win the Open three years running should he be successful in this year’s tournament. Picture by Paul Rickard