Golf: Late comeback lands title

By Ben Guild

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Mount Maunganui golfer Jason Madden played a key part in Bay of Plenty winning the Freyberg Masters for the first time.
Mount Maunganui golfer Jason Madden played a key part in Bay of Plenty winning the Freyberg Masters for the first time.

Bay of Plenty are the Freyberg Masters Champions for the first time after a dramatic final day at the Coringa Golf Club in Christchurch on Friday.

The team became the third team in as many years, following Canterbury (2011) and Waikato (2012), to claim the coveted title for the first time since it began in 1986 at Paraparaumu Beach.

The Bay, which only emerged as a contender late in the week, defeated Southland 3-2 in their crucial round nine contest to secure its first title while Aorangi slipped up on its chance to make history by losing to Auckland.

In one of the closest contest in recent years, the Bay won by 3-2 on six occasions to secure the title by just a half a team point - 6.5 points from a possible 8 points to Aorangi's 6 points - to make history.

Team manager and selector Ross Fowler was still recovering from a taxing week when contacted by the Bay of Plenty Times yesterday.

"I've been involved with this for 15 years now, as a player mainly, but it's just great to see the guy's hard work pay off."

He put the team's success down to its depth, preparation, strong bonds between players and plenty of help from Bay of Plenty Golf.

"At the start of the week we said all we have to do is win each match 3-2. And that's pretty much what we did, aside from the one loss.

"It was a team effort - everyone contributed.

"We flew under the radar a little bit. Northland have a strong side and had it for the taking. Friday morning it was their's, but when they fell over it brought four or five other teams back into it in terms of getting a medal."

The unexpected opportunity led to a frantic final day with Fowler flying all over the course in an effort to keep his players informed of developments.

The Blue and Golds, who have recently enjoyed success at the Toro Interprovincial tournament, took their chance on the final day with clutch wins over North Harbour and Southland.

The heroes of their memorable comeback were their No.3 Steve Heberley (Whakatane), No.4 Tony Hewlett (Omokoroa), and No.5 Jason Madden (Mount Maunganui) who led their team out superbly to secure the vital three points on both occasions.

Heading into the final round, Aorangi's charge towards their first title seemed irrepressible.

But it all came unstuck in their final round showdown with 10-time champions Auckland, which derailed Aorangi's title chances with a 3-2 win.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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