Where Bay got it wrong: Gimblett

By Anendra Singh

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She still wonders if what she will say and reflect on years gone by may be taken the wrong way.

But almost three years on and Judith Gimblett is ready to get off her chest matters pertaining to amateur senior men's golf in Hawke's Bay.

"The avalanche has finally come to an end because we have hit rock bottom," says the former selector who has always had a penchant for shooting from the hip.

Gimblett hastens to add she's not bitter that she lost her role at Golf Hawke's Bay/Poverty Bay Women's Golf.

That is not to say it still doesn't hurt, considering she still firmly believes she had a lot to offer to the code.

"I think they got the team for Paraparaumu [Interprovincials in 2010] wrong because they left out Stuart Duff," says the Hastings woman who was a co-selector of the Stortford Lodge Auto Sales senior men's provincial team for 12 years.

It saddens her that the Bay men's team finished dead last at the Interprovincials early this month in Dunedin, with neighbours Poverty Bay on the rung above them.

Realising it's like peeling a scab of an old wound, Gimblett says the 2009 team of Daniel Pearce, Pieter Zwart, Leighton James, Supravee Phatam and Duff were on track to do something special. Landon Waitoa, originally of Wairoa, was the reserve and Sam Penrice the non-travelling reserve.

"We could have had the best team in 40 years."

At the crux of the upheaval were two major issues - the non-selection of Nick Gillespie and the controversial dumping of Duff for the 2010 team.

The failure of former co-selectors Gimblett, Allen Forrest, and David Howie to accommodate the former national representative amateur golfer ended up at Golf Hawke's Bay's committee meeting.

Questions were asked whether the selectors got it right after the Bay men finished in sixth place in 2009, missing out on the play-offs at a saturated Manawatu Golf Club when Tasman's Blair Riordan sunk a 4m putt on the last hole to rob them off a semifinal spot.

The Bay have not won the Interprovincials since 1969, in Wellington.

They have won it previously in 1961 (Napier) and 1963 (Wellington).

While the general consensus was the team would have benefited from Gillespie's input, the selectors faced an ethical dilemma of having to drop a player from the seven-member team already named.

The players who had been already picked were, understandably, divided on the idea of including Gillespie, considering he had indicated consistently he wasn't available for Interprovincials selection.

Gillespie, who was beginning to question his motivation to play golf, had gone to the United States on a big OE.

Having made up his mind on returning from the US to knuckle down to golf in November, he tweaked a few things just before Christmas and soon began to find the rhythm and zest for the game once more.

Now a professional and based in Wellington where girlfriend Willa Oliver had been studying at Victoria University, Gillespie had then diplomatically refrained from making comments on the grounds that he had a vested interest in the matter.

The son of former New Zealand cricketer Stuart Gillespie, of Wanganui, had moved to play here in 2006 and had won back his berth in the elite academy squad in 2010.

Lindisfarne College teacher Duff was the notable omission from the 2010 team amid allegations of ageism and nepotism with the inclusion of Ben Swinburne, whose father John was a co-selector at the time although ex-CEO Ron Connor had emphasised the senior Swinburne had been excluded as a selector that year when his son's inclusion was concerned.

Former New Zealand High Performance coach Doyle, following an acrimonious fallout with the Connor regime, did not reapply for the senior men's coaching stint in 2010, heralding an era of coach-less senior men's teams.

A raft of long-term volunteers in key positions also gradually either resigned or chose not to reapply or seek re-election.

Gimblett says the 2010 team were so gutted that Duff, who also served as team captain, was dropped they didn't have the heart to play at Paraparaumu in 2010.

"We had such happy teams before that.

"We didn't always agree on everything to the nth degree but we could all sit down to come up with a solution."

Gillespie, Zwart, James and Supravee became professionals not long after the Paraparaumu Interprovincials while Pearce left the region for his hometown of Ashburton before playing as an elite New Zealand representative and taming the fairways of Australia and Asia.

In the case of Gillespie, Gimblett says she had seen the then amateur showing all the signs of burnout in 2009.

"He had four-putted on the fifth green and got beaten and he was our No 1 golfer," she says, adding she advised him to take a much-needed rest.

"He was stale and playing poorly."

However, what Gimblett didn't anticipate was Gillespie's time out from golf, considering he had told her he was taking his golf clubs with him on the US trip.

"I thought he'd be taking like two to six weeks but he took off for about four months."

On his return, Gimblett exchanged a flurry of texts with Gillespie and also phoned him but he maintained he had other commitments.

Gillespie also had intentions of going across the Tasman to play in the Australasian Qualifying School for a PGA tour card.

When the tour qualifier didn't eventuate Gillespie had told a senior player in the team he would make himself available if approached to play in the Interprovincials.

However, the co-selectors had already named the team who also played their last warm-up match in the Auck-Hawk Cup at Hastings a fortnight earlier.

With Pearce on national duties in Argentina, Penrice was promoted for the cup clash.

"Nick wanted to play but he knew very well that if he had asked we would have said no because he hadn't played much golf."

She says a couple of selected players had asked her why they had left Gillespie out and, on hearing her reasons, agreed they couldn't eject other selected players to accommodate Gillespie.

The young talent, Gimblett says, often asked her why they didn't have a proper coach.

Gimblett says it's encouraging to hear talk of an academy under the current Golf HB regime.

"With elite juniors you must have the best coach you can afford."

She says she has nothing against Swinburne, who this month didn't win any games at No 2 in the Dunedin Interprovincials, but three years ago he hadn't won "anything decent".

"It must have been pretty awful for him to be put in that position."

Gimblett says it's vital to pinpoint talent and appoint proper coaches again.

With the Bay men languishing now, she says it has given "more ammunition" to rumours that New Zealand Golf are considering joining golfing regions.

In the mould of the amalgamation of the Bay women with Poverty Bay, it is possible for the men to follow suit if there's any substance to such claims.

It's all good, she says, for people in Auckland to talk about uniting regions but the geographical spread from Pongaroa, near Dannevirke, to Te Puia Springs, north of Gisborne, poses practical and financial problems.

Despite the turbulent times, Gimblett says the Bay can only go up if people make right decisions and implement proper structures for youngsters to thrive.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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