Following in Cambo's footsteps

Last updated 10:09 17/01/2013

Young champ: Cruize Wawatai has won the strokeplay section of the New Zealand Maori Golf Championships.

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It may be too early to call Cruize Wawatai the new Michael Campbell, but the 18-year-old is following in more than a few of the Kiwi golfer's footsteps.

Starting out in the sport six years ago, Wawatai joined hometown Titahi Bay Golf Club, the same club Campbell once played at.

He was coached by Campbell's father, Tom, before moving to Paraparaumu 18 months ago and joining the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club.

Last week Wawatai won the New Zealand Maori Golf Association's annual championships in Taupo, an event Campbell won in 1991, and was also won by Phil Tataurangi in 88, 90 and 92.

Wawatai said he has competed in the event for the past four years, and was close to winning the matchplay section two years ago.

"I made the semifinals two years ago, and made the semifinals again this year. But I won the strokeplay, so that was awesome. I was close to being the first to win both events in the 76 years it's been run."

Wawatai took up golf when he was 12, after caddying for his little brother at an event. He grabbed the clubs and decided to have a swing, and found he enjoyed the sport.

He now has a 2 handicap, is coached by Paraparaumu Beach pro Kevin Smith, and hopes to follow Campbell's footsteps and turn professional in a few years.

Wawatai's success came three years younger than Campbell's at the NZ Maori event, and the teen also had someone special at his side.

"My girlfriend, Brooke Parker, she was my caddy for the tournament," he said.

"I couldn't believe she did it actually. It was awesome. That's commitment."

During the next few months Wawatai will play in amateur tournaments around New Zealand, and is No 1 in the Paraparaumu Beach senior team.

He is part of the Srixon Academy, with full sponsorship, while working each morning at McDonald's in Paraparaumu.

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- Kapiti Observer


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