Golf: Pro-Am finale set to tee off in Cambridge

By Peter White

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Mark Brown, left, is hot favourite to win Thursday's Coombes-Johnston BMW Pro-Am at Mount Maunganui. Photo/File.
Mark Brown, left, is hot favourite to win Thursday's Coombes-Johnston BMW Pro-Am at Mount Maunganui. Photo/File.

The much anticipated season-ending series of four consecutive Pro-Am golf tournaments tees off in Cambridge today.

The top class field of New Zealand professionals will then do battle from 11.30am on Thursday at Mount Maunganui Golf Club followed by a 36-hole tournament at Fairview Golf Club on Friday and Saturday.

The series finishes up at Matarangi with another 36-hole event on Sunday and Monday.

Wellington's Peter Spearman-Burn is back to defend his title at the fourth Coombes-Johnston BMW Pro-Am on Thursday.

Last year, in tricky, windy conditions, he fired 7 birdies and just one bogey to shoot a 5-under-par 67, finishing 2 shots from experienced campaigner Grant Moorhead.

Mount local Dean Sipson was the best of the Bay of Plenty pros, shooting a 2-under 70, ahead of Te Puke club pro Nick Davey, US-based Josh Geary and Tauranga's's Jared Pender, who all fired 71's.

Omokoroa's Kieran Muir was on even par, 72.

The field is even stronger for Thursday's event with recent Tauranga resident Mark Brown teeing it up in his only appearance of the four events.

He finished in a share of sixth place at the Australian Open last weekend. The 38-year-old former European Tour player finished on an 8-under par total, 10 strokes back from Rory McIlroy who won by one shot over World No 2 Adam Scott.

The two-time Charles Tour winner took home $45,200 for his week and elevated Brown to 18th place on the PGA Tour of Australasia and 12th on the OneAsia Order of Merit where he is the leading Kiwi.

Mount head pro Robert Rookes says clearly Brown will be the player to watch but with so many top players competing it really is anyone's guess.

"Mark and Josh Geary (Mount Maunganui) will be the hot favourites and then you have a few other guys who have been really performing this year, who are new players to professional golf," Rookes said.

"Fraser Wilkin, David Klein and Nick Gillespie have been performing pretty well on both sides of the Tasman. Brad Shilton has been playing a few Aussie events and doing quite well, while the Hamilton brothers are in form. James has just won in Harewood so he is in some sort of form.

"Then you have regulars like Jared Pender, Troy Rohipa and Grant Moorhead. Harry Bateman is an interesting player, who's been playing a bit in Europe. Another local, Dean Sipson, won recently as well."

Across town near Katikati, Fairview resident pro Nick Wilson is proud of the course presentation for the 3rd 36-hole Men's Health Trust NZ Fairview Pro-Am beginning on Friday that will have a similar top pros line-up, minus Brown.

Last year New Plymouth's Dominic Barson shot 67 and 68 to win by two shots from Hastings' Leighton James. James Hamilton and Omokoroa's Kieran Muir finished 3rd equal.

"The course is the best it ever has been, for sure," Wilson said.

"The greens, although quicker and more challenging than before, are now a very even surface, which provides greater reward for accurate reading and putting.

"Since the Pro-Am last year, Fairview has undergone further course improvement, none being more significant than the completion of stage one and two of the in-ground irrigation system.

"This system has been extremely beneficial for the tees and greens and as a result has meant that the course is of a much higher playability than was possible last year.

"We have also gone up 5K which makes us the biggest Pro-Am prize in the country."

Both Pro-Am events will feature local amateur golfers competing in teams events alongside a professional.

Spectators are encouraged to turn out to watch both events with play underway in shotgun starts at 11.30am Thursday and 11.00am on Friday and Saturday.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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