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Ace monkey off his back

A STANDING joke between brothers will be told no more, thanks to a perfect shot during a perfect round.

For over 17 years, Aaron Higham has taken great delight in reminding younger sibling Andrew that he has done something little bro hasn’t in his now illustrious golfing career — had a hole-in-one.

Early Wednesday evening, Andrew brought an emphatic end to that banter with a shot that climaxed arguably the greatest strokeplay round in history by an amateur on the Poverty Bay course.

Higham sank a 9-iron tee shot on the par-3 147-metre second hole for a career-first ace.

But he didn’t stop there.

Six birdies and 10 pars later the 30-year-old self-employed painter-decorator signed for an 8-under 64 — the best round by an amateur in the club’s 124-year history.

“Not too bad, eh,” was Higham’s typically modest response to a performance one of his playing partners described as “unreal” and “a pleasure to watch”.

Higham was most pleased with the hole-in-one, and perhaps with good reason.

“I finally got that monkey off my back,” he said. “My brother’s been giving it to me for the last 17 years.”

Aaron achieved the feat in the year 2000 at Te Puia Springs, where the brothers were introduced to the game by father Mark.

One of the finestAndrew became by far the best player in the family, and one of finest the Springs has produced.

He has multiple Te Puia and Poverty Bay senior club championship titles to his name, has represented Poverty Bay-East Coast for years and is among an elite group to have achieved the PBEC “Slam” of winning the East Coast Open at Te Puia, King of the Coast at Tolaga Bay and Poverty Bay Open at Poverty Bay.

Add to that an albatross-2 on the first hole at Poverty Bay, 60-plus matches for PBEC at the national interprovincial and various other club successes.

But missing from that was the elusive ace. Until this week.

Higham is part of a group who regularly play skinners on a Wednesday after work. There were seven this week and no one actually saw his ball go in although one of them (Hukanui Brown) did see it bounce and disappear.

“All of us hit the green,” said another of the group, Pete Anderson. “We walked up and there was one ball missing.”

A Higham master-classFrom there it was a Higham master-class, particularly with the putter as he went “chasing the birdies”.

A fearless putter in general, Higham was prepared to risk missing and going several feet past.

Every time he did that, he slotted the par-putt coming back.

The first of the birdies came on the 358m par-4 fourth, followed by four pars and then a second birdie on the 370m par-4 ninth, where he put his approach to a couple of feet from the pin.

It gave him an outward nine of 4-under 32.

He would normally have stopped after nine holes but wanted to make the hole-in-one legitimate — “it might be the only one of my life” — so played the full 18.

Anderson and Brown continued with him and got to witness more of the same brilliance as he made birdies on the 280m par-4 10th, 457m par-5 12th, 294m par-4 14th and 337m par-4 16th.

The 14th was the only green he did not hit in regulation. He chipped in instead.

Higham said he had chances to go even lower.

“I missed a couple of birdies coming in.”

Also of note was that he birdied only one of the three par-5s, which are at mercy of the big-hitting low-handicappers, including missing a 6-foot birdie-putt on the par-5 first hole.

Higham’s round was from the white non-championship tees so cannot be recognised as a course record. It was also on a non-competition day and there is currently placing at the Bay.

Former Gisborne man Waka Donnelly, who also started his golf at Te Puia, carded an “unofficial” 64 off the white tees on January 6, 1991, but a tap-in birdie putt was knocked back to him on the first hole.

Higham finished out on every hole.

There have been multiple 65s by amateurs over the years including 2017 (Anaru Reedy, October 22, and Peter Kerekere, August 14).

The blue-tee championship course record is also 64, set by Hawke’s Bay professional Pieter Zwart at the $10,000 Poverty Bay Pro-Am on March 23, 2013.

The lowest championship tee round by an amateur is 66.

Higham’s brother will now have to look for some other superior golfing feat to hold over his head.

The 1999 junior club championship final at Te Puia, in which Aaron beat Andrew, could be it.

CHASING BIRDIES: Andrew Higham fired 8-under 64 at the Poverty Bay course on Wednesday, including a career-first hole-in-one on the par-3 second and six birdies. The long-time Poverty Bay-East Coast representative is looking to play a few more tournaments out of the district this year and hopes to get several of his low-handicapped mates to join him. Picture by Paul Rickard
HIGHAM'S CARD: The black box number is the ace and the light grey boxes are the birdies.