Golf: Gill's win timely card for career

By Anendra Singh

It's one of those extraordinary occasions when the teacher, practically speaking, won't try to tell the student what to do.

"I wouldn't be taking him on," Hastings Boys' High School teacher Jason Bird says with a laugh after pupil Max Gill showed his golfing prowess at the New Zealand age-group championship last week.

Effectively, putt for putt, drive for drive, Gill is the best amateur male golfer under 15 years in the country.

The 14-year-old from Hastings Golf Club was among a field of about 140 elite golfers from throughout New Zealand competing for under-13 to under-19 bragging rights.

He carded 78, 72, 76 over three days on the par-72 Waipu Golf Club, in Northland, from Wednesday last week after competing with the HBHS team during the secondary schools' tournament.

While he and his school didn't do so well, Gill found traction in inclement weather to clinch his maiden national title in his second attempt after finishing fourth in the same tourney last year.

While no chump with a set of golf clubs, four handicapper Bird plays an integral part in ensuring the youngsters pick up good skills in the game of life.

"Max's attributes are his work ethics and his whole attitude to success," says the teacher in charge of golf at the school.

"It's not a fluke that he won but more a mark of time and dedication to achieving that success," explains Bird, who takes the HBHS team to the Bridge Pa course every Wednesday for an hour to play nine holes.

He and Gill have had a few challenges but Bird will be the first to reveal the teacher has found himself on the wrong side of the ledger most of the times as they try to tame the fairways and replace divots of development along the way.

"It teaches them good life skills and if they are prepared to do the hard work, then the better their results will be," Bird says before drawing parallels with everyday life challenges the teenagers will face after graduating from high school to pursue tertiary education and employment.

At the nationals last week, Gill finished three strokes ahead of Tyla King from the Bay of Plenty.

"The first day the weather was pretty rough," says Gill who made his debut for the Stortford Auto Sales Hawke's Bay senior men's representative team last month in the Provincial Quadrangular (former Woolaway tournament) involving BOP, Waikato and Poverty Bay.

"On the second day [of the age-group nationals in Waipu] I just felt more confident and I had continuity with everything," Gill says.

At the 16th hole in the last round, the +1.5 handicapper felt he was going to win after teammates told him King, two holes ahead of him, had dropped three shots at the No17.

"People told me but I just like to focus on my own game."

Bird says Gill did his father, Peter Gill, and coach, Ross Morpeth the Hastings club professional, proud.

During the Hastings club's centenary celebrations in March, Gill tamed the fairways of the exhausting Cape Kidnappers Golf Course with former British Open champion Sir Bob Charles.

Gill carded 75 off the stick to comfortably beat Charles, Hastings club president Howard Padman and vice-president Mike Piper in a Watties New Zealand-sponsored round.

The one handicapper has embraced the inarguably sobering Korean philosophy of work hard and you'll succeed.

The right-hander won the East Coast Championship at the Maraenui Golf Club on January 2.

In March, he won the Eagles Society's 36-hole Hawke's Bay Junior age-group Championship at his home club.

He harbours hopes of making the cut to the senior men's Interprovincials at the end of the year.

In many facets, Gill reminds Morpeth of former Kiwi professional Craig Perks, the Palmerston North golfer who won The Players' Championship, often referred to as the "fifth major".

Gill and his family emigrated to Palmerston North from Chun Cheon, about an hour's drive from Seoul, when he was 3.

His father, a sushi chef, and grandmother later moved across the Gorge to the Bay to work and lug his son's bag on club days.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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