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To greener fairways

HALF his life ago, Te Raumati “Tini” Hawea was a little fullah smacking balls down the Poverty Bay Golf Club practice fairway at Sunday morning junior sessions.

He didn’t know where this would take him. He didn’t care. He just enjoyed this new sport of his, and he wanted to get better. A lot better.

He did.

So much so that the now 19-year-old Poverty Bay-East Coast representative golfer — it was his birthday yesterday — is taking his game to a new level over 10,400 kilometres away from home.

Hawea, the son of Greg and Paku Hawea, is attending Mt San Jacinto College, 100 kilometres east of Los Angeles.

The college, part of the California community college system, offers a comprehensive theoretical and practical golf programme while Hawea will also be studying English and history.

It is a two-year course, which actually started in August 2017.

Hawea missed that semester but will catch up through online correspondence while back home in Gisborne for the American summer break from June to August.

Hawea’s decision to continue his golfing development a 12-hour-plus plane flight from Auckland was a combined one between him and his parents, whose shearing work takes them to various countries, including the United States.

“We chose this college because once we met his coach (Pete Martinez) we felt that he had a genuine interest in Tini’s golf talents,” Paku said.

“The climate and city are very inviting as well, and we wanted to be able to be close to Tini while we are working over there.

“Coach Martinez has been awesome, helping us and being there with Tini throughout the enrolment process and helping us to set him up over there.”

“We also decided to choose a community college as Tini would only be committed for two years, as opposed to a four-year programme at university, which is also very expensive.

“This way Tini is able to ease into the education system. It is very different to how our (New Zealand) educational system is in terms of how students learn and develop, and a community college offers courses that aren’t too much for him to handle.”

Hawea’s week is divided between golf classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and English and academic studies on Tuesday and Thursday.

Tournament play is over the weekend.

The college’s “home” course is The Country Club at Soboba Springs — a club Paku described as “pretty flash” although typical of the Californian country club scene.

Nestled in the foothillds of the San Jacinto mountain range, the par-72 6550-metre course was bought by the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians in 2004 and underwent extensive development, including a new clubhouse that opened in 2008.

Mt San Jacinto was one of five colleges from five states to offer Hawea a place. The offers included a full scholarship from a college in Iowa.

Unfortunately, with the Haweas — including Tini — working and travelling, they were out of contact with the college’s golf coach for a week. He assumed they had refused the offer and he gave the scholarship to another golfer.

While his parents are paying for his living and tuition costs for now, there are opportunities for scholarships over his freshman year and in his second year.

“Tini’s coach believes he has an excellent chance of getting a scholarship to a university as he got a chance to see Tini play and practise when we visited the college before he started this year.”

Ambitious young man keen to get a 'full ride'His short-term ambition is to get a “full-ride” four-year golf scholarship to a university — “full-ride” meaning his golf, tuition and accommodation would be fully funded.

And with the young man not sure of what career path he wants to take, the academic studies can be cross-credited to other degree courses offered at most US universities.

The shorter community college experience also gives him the chance to decide if he wants to follow this path or move on to something else.

Hawea, who attended the Rotorua Boys’ High School golf academy, has shown he has plenty of potential.

He was a surprise winner of the 2014 King of the Coast at Tolaga Bay and cemented a place in Poverty Bay-East Coast representative sides. He went through the 2016 junior interprovincial unbeaten at No.2 for PBEC and was fast-tracked into the PBEC team for the national interprovincial later that year.

Last year, he put up his hand to play No.1 for PBEC at the national interprovincial and it proved a steep learning curve.

He’s not sure whether he will be available for the 2018 edition and his studies have ruled out playing in the Poverty Bay Open.

“The Fall semester runs from August through to January. If I do OK with my studies I might be able to come home early, the end of November, mid-December for a short Christmas break.”

He has plenty of people keen to see him achieve, none more so than Arthur Bacon, who guided him at junior coaching sessions.

“Arthur is the very first coach that Tini had, as you well know, and he continues to hold a special place in Tini’s golfing career,” Paku said.

“We have had lots of support, advice and guidance during the past four years . . . this includes previous coaches like Nick Davey (RBHS golf director) and Dave Keown (Poverty Bay pro and PBEC rep team manager); PBEC junior team managers; Tairawhiti Maori Golf; many parents and whanau of all the junior players that Tini grew up with; the golf clubs within our region and the clubs that he played for in Rotorua, Wairoa and Hawke’s Bay; his golf buddies throughout his entire golfing life; and, of course, his own whanau and friends.

“Now it’s time for Tini to give something back to all these people by going to the US and playing his heart out at college level.”

“HOME” COURSE: Gisborne’s Tini Hawea will be a member of The Country Club at Soboba Springs course during his time at Mt San Jacinto College in California. Hawea has started a golf programme at the college and will also study English and history. Pictured is the Soboba Springs clubhouse.
Te Raumati "Tini" Hawea. Picture by Paul Rickard