Wellington fancied to take champs
Dealing with expectation rather than the hilly St Clair Golf Club layout will make or break Wellington's quest to win the women's interprovincial championship this week.
Older, wiser and unbeaten this year, the capital side have been tagged as favourites to lift the national teams' event which tees off in Dunedin today.
It is largely a reflection of how far their two top players, Julianne Alvarez and Te Rongopai Clay, have come in the 12 months since Wellington finished a disappointing fifth at last year's event.
Alvarez, 16, won the Harewood Open on the Charles Tour in October, and was runner-up to Clay for the New Zealand under-19 title.
"That's probably a fair comment," manager Kellie Harrall said yesterday of the favourites' tag. "They've really developed a lot over the past year.
"Julianne is 16 and Te Rongopai, 17, but they've been playing at this level a long time. Body-wise they have been going to the gym, working out and really strengthened up.
"But also mentally they are a lot more experienced. They are seasoned campaigners really."
And it's not just the youngsters who give the Wellington lineup strength.
Lucy Davis, only 22, is playing in her ninth interprovincial, and adds stability at No 4 behind Barbara Parreno, with 21-year-old Alanah Braybrook at No 5.
But, unlike previous Wellington teams, the current crop are taking a different approach mentally, one they hope will end a 20-year title drought. "There will be a lot of people who think we are a team to beat. We've spoken about that as a team," Harrall said.
"We have no expectations to get into the semis. Our only expectation, from my point of view as manager, and from Renee Fowler's point of view as coach, is they focus on every game they play.
"We've worked a lot on how they perform on the course, their attitude about working as a team. If they do that well, the by-product will be winning.
"In past years they've focused on getting to the semis and that might have got in the way of what they had to do in between to get to that point. This year it's day by day, point by point, it's very much a process."
To take some of the pressure off, the players have been told they should celebrate their "phenomenal season" on Saturday, regardless of where they finish.
Wellington's biggest challenger is likely to be an Auckland team missing regular No 1 Cecilia Cho, who has returned to Korea to begin her professional career.
The defending champions lineup features sisters Wenyung and Munchin Keh at No 1 and No 2, respectively, while there are bankable points down the order where former New Zealand amateur champion Larissa Eruera will tactically play at No 5.
Bay of Plenty are also strong, bolstered by the return of No 1 Zoe Brake, while Waikato feature New Zealand representative Sarah Bradley at No 2.
Last year's beaten finalists North Harbour are without Lydia Ko, who will miss the event after being invited to play in a professional tournament in Taiwan.
Wellington's first match is against Manawatu-Whanganui this morning with the tournament concluding on Saturday.
Northland: 1 Sjanna Bonnington, 2 Sam Dangen 3 Kylie Jacoby 4 Jo Taylor 5 Jodi McCalister. North Harbour: 1 Kristen Farrell, 2 Lita Guo, 3 Sai Ma, 4 Julitta Lam, 5 Jessica Murray. Auckland: 1 Wenyung Keh, 2 Munchin Keh, 3 Joanna Kim, 4 Brittney Dryland, 5 Larissa Eruera. Bay of Plenty: 1 Zoe Brake, 2 Grace Senior, 3 Tyla Kingi, 4 Susan Lines, 5 Alanna Campbell. Waikato: 1 Hanna Seifert, 2 Sarah Bradley, 3 Charlotte Willson, 4 Fai Tongdethsri, 5 Michelle Archer. Taranaki: 1 Carol Chard, 2 Holly Winter, 3 Celeste McLean, 4 Rochelle Keegan, 5 Vanessa Bouvet. Manawatu-Wanganui: 1 Emma Clayton, 2 Amber-Rose Thompson-Newth, 3 Brydie Hodge, 4 Stephanie Hyatt, 5 Kelly Nicholas. Hawkes Bay-Poverty Bay: 1 Kate Chadwick, 2 Jaimie McIvor, 3 Angela Jones, 4 Tessa McDonald, 5 Lucy Owen. Wellington: 1 Julianne Alvarez, 2 Te Rongopai Clay, 3 Barbara Parreno, 4 Lucy Davis, 5 Alanah Braybrook. Tasman: 1 Emily Stenhouse, 2 Lesley Baxter, 3 Emily Greenhough, 4 Tracy Bary, 5 Jean Gibson. Canterbury: 1 Sylvie Williams, 2 Elisha Crosbie, 3 Jess Guenzerodt, 4 Zhantel Weekes, 5 Kate Turner. Aorangi South Canterbury: 1 Catherine Bell, 2 Catherine Knight, 3 Ginny Bolderston, 4 Nicole Nathan, 5 Heather Oldfield. Otago: 1 Laura Hoskin, 2 Jo Hicks-Beach, 3 Liz McRae, 4 Dale Dagg, 5 Susan Greig. Southland: 1 Robyn Pullar, 2 Angela Gerken, 3 Olivia Frost, 4 Kerry Mariu, 5 Bronwyn O'Brien.
The Dominion Post