Young golfer 'felt like Tiger Woods'

The Tasman contingent placed out of the winners at the Junior Tiger National final at the Manawatu Golf Club on Sunday, but the experience has been invaluable for the four young golfers.

Nelson College's Connor Winter, 13, shot a seven over par at the nine-hole tournament, finishing six behind overall winner Julian Fowler of the Northland Golf Club.

In the 12-14 girls section, Waimea College's Eve Clarke, 13, carded a 48, finishing over par on the course with a par score of 36, though Eve finished in the middle of the field.

Tahunanui School's Harry Kim, 10, played a solid round of 48 in the boys 11 and under section, while in the girls' section 9-year-old Lizzie Neale of Birchwood School struggled in the wet conditions. Lizzie shot a 64, though she was one of the youngest competitors and still has two years in that age group.

Chris Pugh, Tasman Golf Development manager, said while the results did not put the Tasman competitors into winning positions, he said just playing at the tournament was a victory as they had come through regional qualifiers.

"I think our kids would have got a lot out of the weekend; it will stand them in good stead for the future. I am sure they will return next year to prove a point."

Connor, a member of the Nelson Golf Club who plays off a 5 handicap, echoed Pugh's sentiment. "I started off roughly but came back at the end. It felt really good going up there and experiencing playing with all those good golfers from around the country. I am very proud of what I have achieved this year."

While Connor's reaction was somewhat understated, Junior Tiger champion Julian said he felt like Tiger Woods. The 14-year-old from the Northland Golf Club won the 12-14 Boys Division on the second hole of the playoff on the 18th hole when he holed a 5m birdie putt and delivered a fist pump that the world No 1 would have been proud of.

"I felt like I was Tiger Woods," said Julian. "It was pretty close and I couldn't believe it when the result came through. To win a national title at the Junior Tiger - it was the biggest moment of my golf career so far."

Julian was one of four winners from the national final alongside Joseph Hancock (Waikouaiti) who claimed the 11 and under boys, Rose Zheng (Pakuranga), the 11 and under girls champion and J'amie Bellingham (Royal Auckland) who was the 12-14 girls champion.

Auckland claimed the District Team's Trophy with John Misa (37), Zheng (35), Manaaki McColl (39) and Bellingham (38) combining for a 149 team total to win by 13 shots from Canterbury and Waikato.

The main talking point was the overall champion. Julian, who has been playing the Junior Tiger series for the past four years and attended the national final on two occasions, will represent New Zealand at the world junior golf championships in the United States and he also receives a trip to Disneyland with a family member.

Julian carded a one over par 37 at the Manawatu Golf Club for nine holes to finish in a share of the lead with Daniel Hillier (Manor Park) and Ethan Jones (Manaia).

Hillier dropped out of the playoff when he made bogey on the first time down 18. It looked as if Hunt had secured the win with a great putt for birdie from 2.5m but it horseshoe lipped out.

On the second time down the 18th Julian confirmed his place as a Junior Tiger winner when he delivered a clutch putt for birdie to claim the closely fought win.

More than 1000 kids participated in regional qualifiers throughout the country with travel assistance provided by New Zealand Golf for the leading four players from each district.


If you have a secondary school sports story that you'd like to see in the Nelson Mail, contact sports reporter Jonathan McKeown: jonathanm@nelson, phone 03 546 2873, or text 027 418 9847.

The Nelson Mail