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Brown wins his first ‘major’

His cap was off.

He was about to put out his hand for the congratulatory shake.

Hukanui Brown had all but conceded he would not be King in 2019.

Five holes later he was.

The 29-year-old completed one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of King of the Coast men’s open at Tolaga Bay golf course on Sunday.

Patutahi member Brown beat Gisborne Park’s Anuresh Chandra on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff to claim his first Poverty Bay-East Coast “major”.

He could barely believe it when Chandra three-putted the 16th hole of the championship final to “give me a little sniff”.

Former Fijian international Chandra, 2-up with three holes to play, only needed to two-putt from about 15 feet on the 335-metre par-4 16th.

“I’d taken my hat off before he putted,” said Brown, referring to the common golfing practice nowadays of removing your hat on the final hole.

The hat quickly went back on as Chandra rammed his birdie putt six feet past the hole, then missed the one coming back.

Leaving that door ajar proved fatal.

Brown proceeded to sink a 20-foot birdie putt to win the 17th, then drained another lengthy birdie putt on the 18th to send the final to a sudden-death playoff.

The pair traded pars on the 19th and 20th holes, and both missed the green just to the right with their tee shots on the 140m par-3 21st (the third).

Chandra put his second to about five feet; Brown putted to gimme distance; Chandra missed his par putt and it was all over.

“I just stood there in shock,” Brown told The Herald. “It still hasn’t hit me.”

It was a mentally and physically exhausting Sunday for two worthy finalists.

Brown made birdie on the 19th to beat Matamata’s Kurtis Cortesi in the semifinals while Chandra needed 20 holes to get past 2016 KoTC winner Peter Kerekere (Poverty Bay).

Brown was 2-under the card in his Round 1 win against Omanu’s Liam McFarlane, then ousted top seed Rahiri Murray 1-up in Round 2.

His huge Sunday meant he ended up playing 73 holes over the two days.

He was “stoked” to “finally get a big one” under his belt. The KoTC is regarded as one of the “Triple Crown” events in Poverty Bay-East Coast men’s golf. The others are the East Coast Open at Te Puia Hot Springs and the Poverty Bay Open at Poverty Bay.

Brown gave a hint of things to come last year when he made the final of the East Coast Open — losing 4 and 2 to Andrew Higham — and the semifinals of the PB Open — a 2 and 1 loss to eventual winner Pete Anderson.

Sunday was by far his greatest golfing moment, ranking alongside another more artistic achievement.

Brown is an accomplished singer and in 2012 won Maori Television’s Homai Te Pakipaki competition in which he and father Whata made the grand final.

Brown sang I Believe I Can Fly and his belief in himself is reaping similar reward on the golf course.

He also acknowledges a supportive whanau for his success.

His father Whata, elder brother Ed Junior, and “Nan” — Patutahi legend Maude Brown — have been instrumental.

“She’s my inspiration,” he said of his grandmother.

“I’ve got about 200 (titles) to go to catch her.”

Brown paid tribute to his father for “always backing me”, Ed “for believing in me” and — in the case of this breakthrough victory — good mate and fellow Poverty Bay-East Coast representative William Brown, who caddied for him in the final.

He hopes the KoTC win is a catalyst to more success.

“I’ll practise some more and hopefully do the double at the Poverty Bay Open.”

Motivation won’t be a problem as he loves the game.

“It’s just you and the golf ball and you can’t blame anyone else.”

Hukanui Brown. Pictures by Paul Rickard
Anuresh Chandra