Canterbury is the team to beat

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2012

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The Canterbury golf team is walking the tightrope between confident and cocky before the national teams championships.

It can afford to be both.

The 15-team competition begins at Dunedin's Balmacewen Golf Course today and Canterbury are arguably the team to beat.

They admit they're aiming to win the title and think they can - for the first time since 2000 - but are doing their best to keep their feet on the ground.

Talk of "sticking to our processes" and "one day at a time" were rattled off by non-playing manager Rod Hayes and playing captain Tom Turner.

They also spoke of the threats Bay of Plenty, hosts Otago, Tasman and North Harbour all pose in their pool.

On form and experience, however, Canterbury pose one of the biggest threats at the tournament.

From No 1 Jordan Bakermans to reserve Jason Yoo, the team is capable of dominating in Dunedin.

According to New Zealand Golf's order of merit, Canterbury have three of the top 10 golfers in the field.

"We know we have the team to win and obviously we want to do that, but there's no way we're getting ahead of ourselves," Turner said.

Hayes added: "We know we want to be there on Saturday afternoon [the final] but we have to get there first and that comes down to sticking to our processes and just worrying about one hole at a time, one shot at a time."

Several teams have lost key players this year with more young amateurs turning professional and defending champions Southland are without New Zealand's top amateur Vaughan McCall who accepted an invite to play in this weekend's Australian Open.

Canterbury are without last year's No 1 Keelan Kilpatrick but have a more-than-able replacement in Bakermans.

Fresh off a trip to South America with New Zealand Golf , Bakermans returned to his Christchurch club and shot a stunning eight-under-par 64 off the back tees last week.

And while Bakermans was getting top-notch international competition, his six team-mates were all qualifying for, then playing in, the New Zealand Open.

Only No 3 Harry Bateman made the cut but Turner said the experience of playing in such a big tournament could only help their side this week. "This is still the big one though . . . the Open will help us and was a great experience, but this tournament means a lot to all of us."

With Turner first off in each match playing at the important No 5 position, Bateman very hard to beat at No 3 and Bakermans' ability to beat anyone on his day at No 1, the side has a strong spine.

But they are strong throughout. Russley's Owen Burgess' consistency will prove invaluable at No 2 while Coringa's Nic Kay forced himself into the team through strong recent form.

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That said, Hayes made it clear they were a "team of six" and he would have no problem bringing in Yoo - probably the strongest reserve at the tournament - if one of the top five didn't perform.

Canterbury begin their campaign this morning with a potentially tricky fixture against a Tasman side led by the strong Blair Riordan.

- Canterbury

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