Golf: Bay pro absorbs heat

By Anendra Singh

He had missed the earlier flight but Pieter Zwart kept his cool at the airport in Port Moresby yesterday as he hurriedly changed his tickets to catch another more suitable one back to Auckland via Brisbane.

It's that sort of placid demeanour the Waipukurau golf professional displayed on the fairways and greens in 37C heat and humidity to become the South Pacific Export Papua New Guinea Open champion on Sunday.

With the A$25,000 ($30,065) prizemoney came a green jacket - the first one for the 26-year-old in the professional circles since claiming one in Poverty Bay as an amateur in 2006.

"The reality of what's happened hasn't really set in just yet but all the hard work has gone into what I've achieved so I'm really proud of myself," he said after a final-round 6-under par 66 to hand in a card for a total 15-under par.

The two-shot victory, over overnight leader New South Welshman Lincoln Tighe, is the biggest purse of his fledgling professional career although it also gains exemption to almost every pro-am in Australia for the next 12 months.

"I'll possibly have one to Japan, too."

But Zwart, who finished ninth equal at last year's PNG Open in his first outing there, isn't about to stick his head into the clouds just yet with lofty visions of slipping on green jackets at bigger events at venues such as OneAsia, Europe and the United States.

"Dreams are for free. My feet are firmly on the ground," says the man who will compete at the Muriwai Open, the third Charles Tour event of the year, on Thursday, before jetting off to northern Queensland on Monday next week.

Not one for a tipple, the Zimbabwean-born naturalised Kiwi had a quiet dinner with some fellow golfers at the Open, in a field which included fellow Bay professional Doug Holloway who finished 27th equal.

Having shot 70 and 71 in rounds two and three, Zwart's magnificent 10m birdie chip came at the par-4 17th hole that knocked the stuffing out of seasoned Australian contenders as well as Waikato professional Matthew Perry.

"I practise my short game a lot. Everyone was chipping in throughout the day so mine came at the second last hole."

He likened the playing conditions to Denarau resort in Fiji but felt the PNG course was more difficult in its layout and infrastructure.

"PNG is not like Fiji and it's not that safe but I played really well, especially off the tee and putting.

"I was never in the trees so they have a lot more trees here and that makes it tougher than Denarau."

Zwart kept wiping off sweat with a towel, convinced he's never perspired like that before.

He lauded his caddie of two years, Olex Yorke, 22, of Port Moresby, for his nous.

"He has a lot of local knowledge and he helped me a lot with putts."

He also thanked Hastings PGA professional Brian Doyle.

"I've been working with Brian for seven years now so a big thank you to him, too," Zwart said, saluting his sponsors Furnware and Falcon Electrical, of Onekawa.

Doyle said it was a tremendous win with 60 professionals in the field, including quality Aussies.

Zwart, he said, had had a tune-up with him and played a few rounds with ex-Bay amateur teammate Stuart Duff here before jetting off to PNG.

"We didn't just talk about his swing mechanics but also the psychology side where he talked confidently but didn't come across cocky as some players tend to do off the cuff.

"He's been winning in the islands - Fiji and now PNG - so it's time he won a pro-am in New Zealand."

Doyle said Zwart showed immense character not just to talk up his game but the will to win.

"He was a good solid player but not one who used to go low on scores but now he makes 7, 8 and 9 under."

Doyle said Chris and Ray Walker, of Waipukurau, were "super mentors" for Zwart over the years, too.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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