Golf: Young Mount trio excel in Taranaki

The fourth annual Steve Williams Foundation New Zealand Junior Mixed Aged Group Classic held in Taranaki last weekend turned into a benefit haul for three Mount Maunganui-based golfers.

Hayden Beard and Bailey Smith, from the Mount Maunganui club, and Omanu member Liam McFarlane all won their respective divisions to add more kudos for Bay of Plenty golf in 2012, after the outstanding performances by the men's and women's teams at the recent Toro Interprovincials.

Beard was a convincing winner in the under-25 men's gross competition, shooting 67, 65, 64 and 71 at the Stratford and Inglewood courses, to win by 11 clear shots from clubmate Smith.

The 22-year-old former head boy at Mount College plays off a 1 handicap.

"The courses were fairly short, with Stratford a par 71 and Inglewood par 68, with firm, slow greens which made it difficult to hit wedge shots in there," said Beard.

"I managed to hit the ball far enough to be able to chip the ball quite close, which was quite handy.

"The difference was I was able to make heaps of birdies and not make too many mistakes."

Beard was pleased to play so well in the year's final tournament of note before he takes on the biggest challenge in his golf career in early January.

He will join other local golfers in Brad Kendall (Mount Maunganui), Sam Davis and Karl Knedler (Tauranga) to try and make the top 64 players to qualify for the Australian Amateur at the Commonwealth and Woodlands Golf Clubs in Melbourne.

Beard has focused most of this year on finishing off his Bachelor of Management Studies at Waikato University, but has decided to make golf a priority in 2013.

"Next year I am going to put my job with Ernst and Young in Auckland on hold and play golf, and see how I go."

For 16-year-old Smith, winning the under-17 boys' division and finishing runner-up to Beard caps off a fine year which includes playing a key role as captain of the Bay of Plenty under-19 team that won the Ralph Cup against the best golfers from Auckland, Waikato and Northland.

The scratch player shot 71, 70, 65 and 72 at the two Taranaki courses.

"It was good to get a win but disappointing in the overall group not to get closer than 11 shots but I'm pretty happy with how it went, and it was good to beat Matt Morris (Waikato) who came second," said Smith.

"We have had some good battles over this year so another win for the CV."

Smith, who attends Mount College, has set himself high goals indeed to fill for next year and beyond.

"I hope to make the top Bay of Plenty team next year, which would be good," he said.

"I'd also like to go overseas and play some junior world tournaments in America, and then try and get a scholarship to a university in America.

"The scholarship may depend on if I play in a tournament where they offer scholarships but if I play well then it is a realistic goal."

For 11-year-old Liam McFarlane, the whole tournament experience was of immense value.

The 26-handicapper had a battle royal to the end with Josh Morris, on a 19 handicap, for the coveted gross title, before he eventually went down by a single stroke.

His 83 at Stratford is a remarkable round, considering his age and handicap, and he ended up as the under-13 nett winner.

Liam is determined to do better the next time he is under that sort of tournament pressure.

"I am pretty happy with how I went but probably could have done better.

"I didn't play that well on the greens and the last round I started badly, and was hitting the ball all over the place.

"My nana helped me get over the nerves and just told me to hit the ball straight, and to lay up for two putts and try and get pars to my handicap. I then made a birdie on a par three.

"It was fun playing in the tournament and meeting other people that I was playing with."Next up for Western Bay's top young golfers is the North Island under-19 men's and women's tournaments in Hamilton from January 16.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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