Jennings propels Wellington to win on day one

Until yesterday, Wellington No 1 Marc Jennings rated his biggest matchplay scalp as a rep team-mate in the interclub competition.

Not any longer.

Playing one of the country's top amateurs, New Zealand rep Josh Munn, Jennings dominated to win 5 and 4 and give Wellington a solid start to the men's interprovincial in Dunedin.

They beat title contenders Manawatu-Wanganui 3-2 in their tournament opener, then put their feet up for the afternoon bye, before facing Aorangi and Taranaki today.

Jennings debuted for Wellington a year ago when they narrowly missed the semifinals, and still rated his interclub win last year for Shandon over Miramar's Thomas Spearman-Burn - currently suspended - as a matchplay highlight. So there were nerves on the first tee at the hilly Balmacewen layout yesterday against Munn, who'd become the first amateur to win two tournaments against the pros on the Charles Tour.

"You've got to think positively. He's done a few things nationally and he's one of the best at the moment," Jennings said.

"I got off to a good quick start, which helped, and I held on towards the end. Last year I made a bad start and I was a bit nervous.

"It was different this time, I was better prepared and I knew what to expect."

Jennings birdied the first two holes, got an early break and was never headed.

Wellington coach Geoff Smart said: "He never really let Josh into it. Josh was trying too hard to catch up and Marc kept to the task. It's a huge win for him."

Despite Jennings' dominance it was tense for much of the contest.

No 5 Peter Brinsdon, the veteran of the team and key lead-off man, beat Hayden Ring 2-up, while in the No 4 match Adam Church took Junior Tatana to the 18th before losing 1-down.

Munn's younger brother, Trent, beat James Donnelly 2 and 1 but Wellington clawed it back via No 2 Fraser Maclachlan who snared a crucial 2 and 1 win on debut against Manawatu-Wanganui's Lachie McDonald, the Wellington strokeplay champion.

"They've probably got the most in-form team and they've beaten us this year. It was good to knock them off," Jennings said.

"We weren't looking too great midway through but we pulled through.

"We're bloody happy."

Having been upset by Northland last year, Wellington remain wary of Aorangi and Taranaki, two sides they should account for. Tougher tasks loom later in the week against Auckland, defending champions Southland, and Waikato. The top two from their group go through to Saturday's semifinals.

"We're in a good spot but we've still got to keep on winning. It never ends at this tournament. Each match is a battle," Smart said.

Hawke's Bay, with former Wellington player Richard Squire at the top, had a tough opening day with 4-1 defeats to both Waikato and Auckland. Southland had the bye in the morning then swept Aorangi 5-0 after lunch.

In the other group, one of the tournament favourites Canterbury were held to a 2.5-2.5 draw by neighbours Tasman in their opening match.

The Dominion Post