Tatana on course to make his comeback
Nineteen years after he first played for Manawatu-Wanganui in the national interprovincial, Junior Tatana will make one of the more notable comebacks next month.
The Foxton golfer came within one shot of qualifying as a professional and was a 16-year-old New Zealand junior back in 1993 when he went off to Nelson at the cost of sitting his School Certificate exams.
Now 35, he will be at No 4 for Manawatu-Wanganui in the interprovincial at hilly Balmacewan in Dunedin.
He went to the world under-19 championships in Japan with the likes of Richard Best and Reon Sayer. On his many trips to Australia he remembers coming up against future Australia pros like Geoff Ogilvy and Brett Rumford.
Tatana's guiding light was his father Alex, the gifted sportsman who played 68 games in the five-eighths for the Manawatu rugby team between 1978 and 1988. But when his father died suddenly in 1995 aged 39, it was also a blow to Junior's golf.
"That was probably the main reason I parted from golf. He was my organiser, ran everything, told me when the tournaments were on and when to practise."
It was his father who got him and his brothers into golf after playing schoolboy rugby at Te Kawau.
"I wouldn't have a bar of golf. I said it was an old man's game. From there on I got hooked."
Foxton was the nearest course to their home at Himatangi Beach.
But then he and the family left for Sydney when he was 19; he took his golf clubs but seldom played.
In 2005 he came home after 11 years away, met girlfriend Kylie and settled back in Palmerston North, his grandparents still at Himatangi Beach even if his mother, brothers and sisters are still in Australia.
"I was over Sydney, got sick of it; the heat was too much and I got homesick."
His golf skills were still there and this year he helped Foxton's pennants team win promotion to A grade. And his selection has proved he can still mix it with the new breed, still hitting it as far off the tee.
"Typical young guys; they are fearless. I was like that when I was young. I'd stand up and - boom."
"I play it more now because I love the game. My mind is probably my strength. I don't let anything faze me and I love pressure." He just can't practise enough because by day he is painting and building. So everything has to happen for him on Saturdays.
Tatana holds the Foxton course record with 64, eight under par. He has done it eight times and has shot 61 but that was when there was clean and placing.
Between 2006 and 2008 he went to the Australasian PGA qualifying school in Melbourne, twice missed by one shot, which was "a kick in the guts", and the third time by six shots, "and felt way better".
Of his three interprovincials, the best was their fifth at Manor Park, Wellington, in 1995 when Tatana played at No 3.