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Bring on Clearwater 2018

THE star of Poverty Bay-East Coast’s men’s national interprovincial campaign last week didn’t think twice when asked about his availability for 2018.

William Brown, about 360 days out from the next edition, said he planned to be back next year.

That has a lot to do with his most successful national interprovincial performance and just as much to do with the 2018 event being held at one of the country’s top courses — Clearwater in Christchurch.

Brown said he and Andrew Higham, who between them anchored the team’s 13th placing at Northland’s Mangawhai course last week, were keen, especially after hearing the venue for it.

Bar the fickle nature of life, the pair are inevitable selections. Brown brought up his 50th match in his ninth consecutive national interprovincial last week while Higham is somewhere around the 60 mark.

That combined experience was paramount to the five-man PBEC side once again punching several weight divisions higher at the week-long matchplay tournament featuring the country’s finest amateur players.

To put it in perspective, one only has to look at the numbers.

There are around 50 courses in Otago and 25 in Southland.

PBEC, by far the smallest of the 15 golfing provinces, has seven. Only two of those are 18-hole tracks.

The team also went into the tournament without arguably the No.1 player in PBEC — Peter Kerekere — who was unavailable, and no reserve to call upon.

Over their six team clashes, PBEC beat Southland 3-2 and halved with Otago 2½-all . . . and the mainlanders could count themselves lucky to have shared that one.

Otago No.3 Duncan Croudis, 1-down to Brown playing the last, smashed a 3-wood out of the rough to two-feet from the pin for an easy eagle and a halved match.

Brown ended the tournament with three wins, two halves and just one loss — 2 and 1 to Canterbury’s Hiroki Miya.

“I was stoked,” said the 24-year-old, who recently successfully completed his greenkeeper apprenticeship.

So successful, he is in the running for the New Zealand Golf Course Superintendents Association’s Graduate of the Year to be named next year.

Smart play and having been there so many times before were the backbone of his impressive week.

“I think that’s what it came down to — our experience,” said Brown, the “our” meaning himself and Higham, who had three wins at No.5.

Brown said “making my pars” and minimal use of his driver — going for positional play over distance — were also key.

PBEC manager Dave Keown was a little more animated.

“Willie went fantastic. He played sub-par golf all week.”

Keown highlighted one of Brown’s matches, a half with North Harbour rising star and national representative Kevin Koong.

Higham, who has played in almost every position over his rep career, once again stepped up at the higher level.

The new father, who has hit his golfing straps in the second half of the year, mixed typical Higham moments of brilliance with rock-solid play to add three wins to his extensive collection.

Kortesi, part of a Tokoroa double alongside cousin Nathaniel Cassidy in the side — both are also members of Tolaga Bay and have family connections to the East Coast town — contributed to the cause with two good wins at No.4.

Keown said No.1 Tini Hawea and No.2 Cassidy “struggled a bit” but he emphasised just how difficult it was playing at the top of the order, particularly for teenager Hawea in only his second national interprovincial.

Hawea heads to the United States in January on a college golf scholarship and his national interprovincial was an education in itself.

“He’s going forward and knows this is where he wants to be,” Keown said. “He learned so much and held his head up high in the face of adversity, and that’s something to be really proud of.”

Keown said the Northland heat added to an always challenging week.

“On one of the days we went through 24 bottles of water, 12 bottles of Powerade and six bottles of Gatorade. I was dipping towels in ice water in an esky.”

Keown said they were “rapt” with their efforts.

“It was a very tough event, with no reserve and only myself there to support them, but that’s the cost we have to bear.”

North Harbour won the national interprovincial title for the first time since 2005. They beat Auckland 3-2 in the final.

PBEC, on 1½ team points and nine individual points, finished ahead of Southland (1 and 11) and Manawatu-Wanganui (0.5 and 11).

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