Loss can't take gloss off Southland

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 10/12/2012
Scottt Hellier
Photosport
SO CLOSE: Scott Hellier in action for Southland during the final day on Saturday of the New Zealand interprovincial team’s tournament held in Dunedin.

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Southland manager Cody Harper couldn't have been more proud of his players despite their interprovincial title defence coming to an end at the semifinal stage against Bay of Plenty on Saturday.

Having won the tournament for the first time in its 60-year history last year, Southland were among the favourites for the crown despite arriving at Dunedin's Balmacewen course without New Zealand's No 1 amateur Vaughan McCall in the team.

Hopes of a repeat were killed off by a massive putt from the fringe of the green by Bay of Plenty No 2 Peter Lee on the first sudden-death extra hole, after the two teams could not be separated following their five regulation matches.

Southland No 1 Tyler McLean and Matt Tautari both won their matches, with Liam Balneaves and Jeremy Hall losing theirs and Scott Hellier squaring his contest with Peter Lee.

That resulted in Lee, who earlier this year lost the New Zealand Amateur final to McCall, and Hellier heading back to the first hole for the decider, being the only two players to halve their match.

With both players set up with birdie opportunities, Lee dropped a putt from the fringe, and Hellier was not able to convert his chance from about five feet closer.

"It was off the green pretty much, 20 feet at least. Scotty was pretty devastated but there's not much you can do about that," Harper said.

"It was a great effort from the boys, especially the top two."

Harper said the New Zealand selectors had already been taking notice of McLean, but would now have to also have Hellier in their calculations.

"He was my boy all week; you couldn't take anything away from his week.

"He was just outstanding."

While disappointed at not being able to defend their title, the Southland team had proved to themselves that they were not reliant on McCall, who has been playing in the Australian Open this week.

"That's what I tried to get across to the guys, to make a name for themselves."

In the other semifinal, Manawatu/Whanganui beat Tasman 4-1 to advance to the final where they lost to Bay of Plenty.

Meanwhile, rounds of 77 and 74 at The Lakes saw McCall narrowly miss the cut at the Australian Open.

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