Golf: Omanu players out to repel visitors in Classic

This weekend the Omanu Golf Club will be hosting the 35th Omanu Classic Golf Tournament, combined with the Omanu Mid-Amateur Tournament for players 30 years and over.

Compton Pikari (Te Awamutu) comes into the event with some recent hot form, finishing third at the Srixon International Junior Classic in New South Wales.

This year he has won the North Island Under-19 title and the South Island strokeplay title. While Pikari has regularly been a contender in the Omanu Classic, he has yet to have a podium finish.

But the locals will not let Pikari have it all his own way.

After James Hamilton won the 2011 Classic - the first Omanu member to win on his home course - the quality field of local contenders know it is possible.

Hamilton will not be defending his title as he turned professional after last year's victory.

Leading the pack is Brad Kendall (Mount), another recent highly placed finisher who comes off cleaning up in his home matchplay championship. Kendall, a big ball striker, won New Zealand titles last year and plays off a +1.9 handicap.

Craig Hamilton (Omanu) will be seeking to emulate his brother and keep the title in the family.

Hamilton, another Bay of Plenty representative, has had solid rounds in recent tournament golf and would love to take the bragging rights back to the family home.

Fellow Bay representative players, Andrew Stewart (Omokoroa), Landyn Edwards (Rotorua) and Sam Davis (Tauranga), will all be challenging with the selection for the Bay squad to compete in the NZ Interprovincial to be named after this event.

Eddie Burgess (Tauranga) is still a fine golfer after winning back-to-back in 1998 and 1999, before turning professional. Since returning to the amateur ranks he has always been close up in the Classic and has won the Mid Amateur title on a couple of occasions.

Other top contenders include Brad Hayward (New Plymouth), Luke Toomey (Ngaruawahia), William Howard (Rotorua), Steven Kuggeleijn (Lochiel), Tom Brockelsby (Hamilton) and Kevin Budden (Waitemata), who have been highly placed in past Omanu Classics and are capable of putting together four good rounds.

If the men's title is close, the Classic has its best women's field since it was introduced three years ago.

New Zealand representative, Munchin Keh (Titirangi), is fresh from a fine effort in the Espirito Santos women's world amateur teams championship in Turkey, where the team finished fifth.

Keh is playing in the Classic for the first time and will be chased by a high class field of local golfers. Zoe Brake (Whakatane) also competes for the first time, but she is playing on a track she enjoys having established the course record of 66 in January.

However, there are many other contenders. Hanna Seifert (Lochiel), Grace Senior (Tauranga), Saini Skudder (Rotorua) and Larissa Eruera (Akarana) have all performed competitively previously in the Classic.

Omanu's hopes lie with 14-year-old Alanna Campbell, who enters as the Omanu strokeplay champion in her first year as a senior Bay of Plenty representative.

While the club celebrated its 41st anniversary this year, the Omanu Classic has been played for the last 34 years and is regarded as one of New Zealand's premier tournaments for our top amateur.

The Classic in the past has been won by players that have progressed to the PGA Tour such as Danny Lee, Phillip Tataurangi and Reon Sayer.

This year's tournament is strategically placed to be the lead-in event to the New Zealand Interprovincial tournament three weeks later.

A number of regions will be using the Classic as their final selection tournament.

- Hamilton News

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