Auckland tyros show composure
Auckland have continued their dominance of the SBS Invitational tournament with their young team delivering an impressive wire-to-wire win at the Invercargill Golf Club.
Auckland, the most successful team in the history of the event with 10 wins since it began in 1977, added title number 11 with an eight-stroke victory over 2012 champions Manawatu-Wanganui.
Auckland finished on an eight-under-par team total of 1144 to win their third championship in the last four years at Otatara.
Auckland team manager Warren Leitch was proud of his young charges. They faulted in the third round with a four-over-par team total but came home strong with a three-under-par score in the final round to secure the win.
Manawatu-Wanganui were valiant in their title defence, also carding a three-under-par total 285 in round four - but will rue their eight-over-par 296 in round two that was ultimately the difference.
Otago, led superbly by player of the tournament Brent McEwan, claimed a share of third place with host province Southland. Otago won the Founders Trophy for the low team total in the final two rounds.
But the main celebrations came from the Auckland camp which showed its class in a polished performance.
"I have a huge amount of pride in the young guys really," Leitch said. "The average age of our team was 19 so they handled it really well. They had a pass mark at the Toro in Dunedin in December and to go on to win the SBS is quite a feather in the cap for such a young side."
They were well led by New Zealand representative Sam An who had rounds of 70, 70, 69 and 69 to finish second on the individual leaderboard at 10-under-par.
The Titirangi golfer was well supported by team-mates Tae Koh (69, 72, 75, 72) and Jonathan Ratcliffe (71 72 73 73) who both finished inside the top 10 as they enjoyed revenge for last year's playoff loss.
Leitch believed the SBS played an important role in developing team golf among New Zealand's leading amateurs.
"The event is magnificent and well run by Otatara and NZ Golf. It was a sensational event with many of the best amateurs in the country here. There could not be a better course for an event like this than this one."
Also smiling was Otago No 1 McEwan who claimed his first national title when he won the individual trophy, and finished three shots ahead of An.
"I played really solid and gave myself a number of opportunities to make birdie, and luckily enough it was one of those rounds where every time I got into trouble I managed to get out of it," said the St Clair golfer.
The country's leading amateurs will now prepare for the next national event, the New Zealand Stroke Play Championship at Paraparaumu Beach from March 21 to 24.
The Southland Times