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Eagle finish for McDonald

Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay No.1 Tessa McDonald is taking it one hole at a time at golf’s national women’s interprovincial in Christchurch.

But after two fine comeback victories, she will never forget one particular hole on the opening day of the week-long matchplay tournament on the Waitikiri course yesterday.

The 23-year-old Gisborne golfer chipped in for eagle-3 on the 18th hole to win her morning match against Northland’s Shardae Bulkeley, then fought her way from 2-down with four holes to play to beat Tasman’s Lizzie Neale 1-up in the afternoon.

It was a pivotal win as HBPB, having lost 3-2 to Northland in the morning, defeated Tasman 3-2 to end the day second-equal with Otago in their section.

McDonald’s performances in her first time at the top of the order for HBPB were indicative of a steely determination and Zen-like calm under pressure.

She was 3-down after four holes against Northland’s Shardae Bulkeley but didn’t let that faze her, and chipped away at the deficit.

Playing the par-5 18th (Waitikiri’s ninth hole as the HBPB-Northland tie started on the 10th), they were all-square.

McDonald was just short for two, while Bulkeley was to the right of the green, also for two. Bulkeley played an excellent shot to within two feet of the hole, and McDonald gave her the putt for birdie.

The Northland No.1 could only watch as McDonald took out a wedge and chipped in for eagle-3 and victory.

Her afternoon victory featured drama of a different kind. McDonald and Neale are no strangers to each other. They met at the national interprovincial in Whangarei last year, this time in the No.2 slot, with McDonald winning 4 and 3.

Neale was on track to avenge that, at 2-up with four holes to play, only for McDonald to win two of the next three holes . . . Neale made a meal of the par-5 17th (this time the teams started on the first hole), and gave the hole to McDonald before the HBPB rep had played her third shot.

McDonald had to hit only one shot on the par-3 18th, a 5-iron to the front of the green, as Neale self-destructed and conceded the match.

“She had her game face on,” grandfather and caddie Cliff Poole said after a hot day in Christchurch. The weather was a contrast to last week’s cold and wet conditions for the men’s national interprovincial at Christchurch’s Clearwater course.

McDonald is continuing a tradition of Gisborne having just one player in HBPB teams. But she has racked up plenty of national interprovincials and that experience showed yesterday.

The other HBPB morning success against Northland was No.5 Fiona Ellis, who had a 5 and 4 win.

Ellis (3 and 2) and No.4 Samantha Carroll (5 and 3) were winners alongside McDonald in the afternoon.

HBPB faced a tough Day 2 — defending champions Auckland this morning and North Harbour in the afternoon.

IN FORM: Tessa McDonald won both of her matches for Hawke’s Bay-Poverty Bay at the national women’s interprovincial golf tournament in Christchurch yesterday, an eagle on the last hole clinching victory over the Northland No.1. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell