Golf: Class of Brian reflects

By Anendra Singh

Okay so they bump into each other like Prime Minister John Key can't help stumbling into press gallery members at the Beehive but suffice it to say there was an aura of a school reunion in Hawke's Bay golfing circles yesterday.

It rained, but five professionals from the class of Brian Doyle were making a resounding statement at the Hill Country Golf Course without even opening their mouths.

Doug Holloway, Nick Gillespie, Pieter Zwart, Daniel Pearce and Leighton James were yesterday part of the precursor to the 2013 Pakline-Autex Hastings Pro-Am teeing off to a shotgun start at 12.30pm today luring 38 professionals to the region in a field that has attracted more than 100 players for the two-day tourney.

The five professionals have one thing in common - they were Bay amateur representatives and all have had interactions with Hastings PGA professional and former national coach Brian Doyle in some shape or form.

"I've coached all of them, except Leighton, who was in the Bay senior men's team when I was in charge," Doyle said before the players joined sponsors' teams to tame the nine-hole par-three course twice over in Havelock North.

It pleased Doyle to be part of an era when he helped usher talented amateurs to rise through the ranks to become professionals.

"It's a credit to what we've done in Hawke's Bay in the amateur ranks.

"It's sad to see Golf Hawke's Bay on a downer but it will rise again in a few years," Doyle said, adding all provinces went through ups and downs "but it was a great to be involved with such a great bunch of guys who were also formidable amateurs".

While under Doyle and newly appointed Golf HB life member Allen Forrest as manager, the Bay sides won just about every conceivable amateur silverware but the annual Interprovincial Tournament proved elusive.

"That's my only regret. We were runners up one year in the Interprovincials and came third another year but we never won it," said Doyle, who organised the par-54 tourney yesterday for 22 professionals.

Aucklander Ryan Fox, who also had tuition with Doyle, won the annual precursor and $1500, carding 6-under-par 48, one outside the course record Taranaki's Grant Moorhead set last year.

Moor had to settle for $1000 and third place with 50 after Fraser Wilkin was runner-up on 5-under 49, pocketing $1200.

Bay of Plenty professional Dean Sipson fired a 3-under 51 for $600.

In the amateur sponsors' teams, Patton Engineering amassed 144 stableford points for victory with Pakline No 1 team second on 143 and Autex third on 141.

Holloway, who hasn't plied his trade overseas this year after feeling the effects of last year's gruelling calendar, was there after helping out at the family farm at Te Pohue.

"It's good to see some of the guys from one province who have all turned professional and are doing reasonably well," the 29-year-old said.

Gillespie, 24, whose home is "a suitcase in the back of a car" but intends to set up a base in Wellington, has spent several weeks in Australia and Malaysia this year.

No doubt the player who came to the Bay from Wanganui is still loving the challenges of a professional lifestyle.

"Ideally the big goal is to get to the [United] States at the end of it but I need to just keep doing whatever I can to get there."

Always enjoying returning to the Bay, a grinning Gillespie said there was a fair bit of money riding on the side among the former five amateurs yesterday.

Pearce, 24, who is married now and has settled with wife Sarah in Auckland, said they had spent a good several years honing their skills in the Bay so it was great to catch up with each other on familiar hunting grounds.

"We see one another quite regularly when we're playing [in the national pro-am circuit] but I think it's quite good to be in the Bay courses we know so well before catching up with some of our mates afterwards," said Pearce who is playing here for the first time as a professional.

With his wife studying at Auckland, he is happy to be based there.

"Unfortunately I've got no status overseas but I've been playing well in New Zealand and have got three seconds so far this year and have come close to winning." he said, adding it gave him more motivation to work harder.

Like Gillespie, the US is Pearce's big goal but for now he'll settle for the OneAsia Tour next year.

Zwart, 26, of Waipukurau, is fresh from the New Zealand Open in Christchurch.

"This [Bridge Pa] is my second home course so I'll be looking for a good result," the Zimbabwean-born player said as he seeks momentum for the year.

Zwart said he still worked with Doyle and enjoyed it.

He reflected on the amateur days and felt they should have won the Interprovincials on two at least because they looked great on paper.

James, 28, who lives in the Bay and finished second once, said it was good to catch up with Doyle who was "still hanging in there".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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