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Rotorua princes chasing King’s throne

A Bay of Plenty teenager described as a rising Danny Lee is part of a powerful outside bid for King of the Coast glory in Tolaga Bay this weekend.

James Tauariki is one of two Rotorua Boys’ High School Golf Academy students in the 64-strong field for the two-day men’s open tournament.

He and fellow academy member Rahiri Murray will inject a potentially lethal dose of teenage talent into the championship 16.

When contacted on Facebook to confirm the pair’s entry, the academy posted “yes” and that “James will be hard to beat”.

Tauariki and Murray are both members of Geyserland Junior Golf Club — a “community-based virtual golf club” made up of three courses (Rotorua, Springfield and Lakeview) and the ProDrive Golf driving range. This amalgamation is aimed at growing junior golf in the region.

Tauariki, whose ambition is to become a professional, made the Rotorua Daily Post headlines this year when he attempted to play as many holes as he could in 12 hours at the Springfield course.

The golfing marathon was a fundraiser for a junior tournament in Australia.

Tauariki completed six rounds of the par-70 course — firing 75, 73, 73, 68, 69 and a course-record-equalling 62.

He also led his school to victory in the Bay of Plenty intercollegiate champs, shooting 68 at Springfield as Rotorua won by 14 shots.

In a story on TVNZ Maori news programme Te Karere last year, Rotorua BHS academy director of golf Nick Davey said Tauariki was “one of our superstars” and had the ability to “play shots that no other kid can play”.

Tauariki goes into tomorrow morning’s first round of matchplay on a 0.2 handicap, one of the lowest in the top group.

Waikato schoolteacher Jordan Rangihika, a Rotorua BHS old boy, is the No.1 seed on handicap.

A member of Ngaruawahia and Kawerau, Rangihika is on +0.4 while nephew Zane Rangihika (1.2, Kawerau), big-hitting Wellingtonian Johnny “Shu” Schaafhausen (0.5, Wainuiomata), 2015 KotC champion Nathaniel Cassidy (2.7, Matamata) and KotC regular Kurtis Cortesi (3.9, Matamata) are also among the out-of-town invasion.

Heading that list is Hawke’s Bay representative and defending champion Tyson Tawera (Hastings), who last year added his name to the list of kings with a comprehensive 5 and 4 victory over Mahia’s Peter Bremner.

Tawera’s achievement was all the more impressive in that the field was among the best in the tournament’s history.

Any chance of the trophy not heading over the Wharerata ranges or through the Waioeka Gorge is probably in the hands of only three local hopefuls — William Brown (Waikohu/Poverty Bay), Andrew Higham (Te Puia Springs/Poverty Bay) and Hukanui Brown (Patutahi).

It has become a broken record and greenkeeper William Brown definitely doesn’t need reminding but this is a title that continues to elude him. He has had three runner-up finishes.

Higham has won it three times but goes in with little recent competitive golf under his belt. His last official round was at Poverty Bay in March.

Huks Brown showed he can match it at the highest level of Poverty Bay-East Coast golf with his runner-up performance at the 2018 East Coast Open at Te Puia Springs. This is a chance to go one better.

The fact that the KotC field is filled well in advance is testament to Tolaga Bay’s classic Coast hospitality.

The tournament has again attracted players from a wide range of clubs. Nearly half are from outside the PBEC district.

Saturday afternoon will be something special.

On one side of the out-of-bounds fence on the first hole, players will be vying for glory on the golf course; on the other side, hundreds will be cheering on Uawa or Tokararangi in the East Coast club rugby final.

Tolaga Bay will be pumping.