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A deadly putter the difference

GOLF’s Major winners have been known to cuddle up in bed with the trophy following a long night of celebration.

Andrew Higham didn’t do that after winning the Poverty Bay-East Coast version of a Masters or British Open on the Poverty Bay course at the weekend.

Had he contemplated it, though, it would have been a club, not a cup, that deserved his affection.

Thirty-year-old Higham beat surprise package Stefan Andreassen in the Keiha Cup championship 16 final of the Emerre and Hathaway Poverty Bay men’s open under a darkening sky on Saturday afternoon.

The painter-decorator, a member of Te Puia Springs and Poverty Bay clubs, won the matchplay contest 4 and 2 to add it to his 2014 Open title and five senior men’s club championship crowns on the Awapuni course.

That four-hole advantage aligned perfectly to the difference between the finalists.

Higham sank four lengthy birdie putts. Andreassen didn’t.

Long-time Poverty Bay-East Coast representative Higham’s positive performance with the flat stick was his winning of the three-day tournament, which featured 80 players from as far away as Australia.

He showed no fear on the slick, lively Bay greens.

He was willing to take the risk of having a three-or-four-foot putt coming back if he missed, and the final was the ultimate example of that game plan.

Higham in control earlyHigham took control early. He won the second, third and fourth holes to forge a 3-up lead — the fourth featuring the first of his successful birdie putts.

Mangapapa School teacher Andreassen birdied the fifth to cut the deficit to 2-down, only for Higham to bin a 15-footer on the sixth for birdie-2 and restore the 3-up advantage.

An Andreassen par on the seventh hole was good enough to claim a hole back. When the players matched pars on the eighth it was one of only two halves in the opening 10 holes.

The par-4 ninth hole was crucial. Andreassen went down the middle from the tee; Higham dragged his tee shot left into the deep rough and could only pitch his ball back on to the fairway. Andreassen missed the green with his second, Higham put his third just left of the green pin-high, then slotted a slippery cross-green, breaking 18-footer for par.

Andreassen could not match it and found himself 3-adrift at the turn.

That became 4-down when Higham drilled a 33-footer for birdie on the 10th, his bemused reaction mirrored by his opponent who missed his six-footer for the half — pretty much the story of his round.

The Higham putting master-class had not finished. He drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the 12th and at 5-up with six to play, the fat woman was warming up her vocal cords.

The champagne was put back in the ice bucket when Higham hit a tree with his second on the 13th and went out of bounds. Andreassen made an excellent up-and-down on the 14th to stay alive at 4-down with four to play and was given another lifeline when Higham went out of bounds off the 15th tee.

Any thought of a Higham capitulation was snuffed out on 16, where Andreassen had trouble around the green, and the pair shook hands.

Earlier, 55-year-old Andreassen turned on an impeccable tee-to-green display to come from 3-down after six holes to beat Poverty Bay greenkeeper William Brown 1-up in their semifinal, while Higham knocked out Patutahi’s Tony Akroyd 2 and 1.

Higham, certain to be a key figure in the Poverty Bay-East Coast national interprovincial campaign, dedicated his win to his baby daughter Ayla.

Reflecting on his victory, he said: “I love it when my putter shows me some love.”

In other finals, Taupo’s Torben Landl defeated Poverty Bay intermediate club champion Neil Mackie 5 and 4 in the Barrington-Miller trophy second-16 final. Landl was like a kid on Christmas morning when he learned he was getting a cup. It is understood he filled it more than 10 times at the clubhouse bar and ended up playing DJ at the Soho bar later that night.

Gray Clapham (Poverty Bay) beat Kaleb Tawera of Hawke’s Bay (Maraenui) on the first extra hole for the third-16 title.

Central School principal Andy Hayward outgunned Poverty Bay clubmate Dave Pirimona 4 and 2 in the fourth-16 final.

Former All Black manager and Poverty Bay and Canterbury rugby representative Tony Thorpe (Tai Tapu, Christchurch) pipped Gisborne Pak’nSave owner Ewan Atherton on the 18th for the fifth-16 honours.

GET CLOSE: Andrew Higham watches the progress of an iron shot. Picture by Paul Rickard
CHAMPION: Andrew Higham with the Keiha Cup as Poverty Bay Open winner. Picture supplied