Southland face tough task defending title

LEADING CHALLENGE: Tyler McLean is No 1 for the Southland men's team which will attempt to defend its interprovincial in Dunedin this week.
LEADING CHALLENGE: Tyler McLean is No 1 for the Southland men's team which will attempt to defend its interprovincial in Dunedin this week.

Tyler McLean admits Southland's leading golfers have set the bar pretty high.

McLean was part of the Southland men's golf team that last year won the New Zealand men's interprovincial tournament for the first time.

It ended 60 years of trying to engrave the Southland name on the trophy and as a result the golfers were named the team of the year at the Southland sports awards.

Today the Southland men will head about defending that title when the 2012 tournament starts at the Balmacewen course in Dunedin.

McLean and his team-mates would love to relive those glory moments with another title this week but acknowledge they have one heck of an assignment ahead of them.

Last year's No 1, Vaughan McCall, will miss the weekend as New Zealand's top amateur looks for success overseas.

Cody Harper will also not be back after he opted to turn professional following Southland's golden win on the national stage.

"We're still very confident, even without Vaughan and Cody," McLean said.

"They are two huge losses, but Cody's moving on to better things in his golfing career and Vaughan is taking the path he needs to take to get where he wants to be in golf.

"We don't lose a heck of a lot though really.

"The other guys we've got in this team are all very good golfers around this track.

"We're confident we have the ability, we can beat anybody around here."

McLean filled the roll of reserve in the team last year, mainly carrying clubs and offering advice.

While the former New Zealand long-drive champion says he did feel part of the win, nothing would beat adding another victory as a player.

"It was great being there as a reserve and helping get the boys through last year, but it's going to good being part of the playing five."

McLean has gone from the reserve role to being named Southland's No 1 for this year's tournament as he comes in with some good form next to his name.

The title is tipped to be wide open in 2012, with a number of teams fancying their chances to claim the coveted team's trophy after Southland won for the first time in 60 years in 2011 at the Poverty Bay Golf Club.

There are quality players across a number of teams and Dave Mangan, the New Zealand Golf general manager, said it was not easy to pick a clear favourite for the 2012 event. "The New Zealand golf scene has changed a bit since the last Toro, with a group of players like Ben Campbell, Fraser Wilkin, Mathew Perry, Daniel Pearce and Cody Harper all turning professional so there are some new-look teams.

"The traditional powerhouses of Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Auckland and Wellington have young teams this year and it promises to be an exciting tournament."

The Southland Times