Promising pair have Games to shoot for

By Cameron Leslie

When the 2016 Rio Olympics tee off it will be the first time in 112 years that golf has been included, and Northland's Kadin Neho and Sean Masters could be there teeing off also.

The 17-year-olds were recently named in the New Zealand team to compete in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney next week, alongside fellow Northlander, Melita Raravula (swimming).

The Tikipunga-based Neho is hoping to absorb as much as he can from the Youth Olympics as he continues to learn and grow in his sport.

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it [the Youth Olympics]," said Neho. "It's a bit of experience, [and] a bit of international game."

Northland Men's Golf president and Northland selector Roy Pelsky described Neho as talented, with a lot of potential.

"He's been sighted by the New Zealand selectors and was brought into the New Zealand Junior Academy [this year] and he's gone from there," said Pelsky.

Lately, he said, Neho had been doing a lot of growing and had to cope with changes in his swing, but he should come good for the Youth Festival.

Masters said he was thrilled to have made the team, which showed his recent good form has been noticed by others further afield than his Northland home.

"It was awesome when I heard, it's going to be a big event, with athletes from all over the world and a bit different from your normal kind of golf tournament," he said.

The Kaitaia teen moved to Whangarei to attend Whangarei Boys' High School at the start of last year to focus on his golf and credits that for improving his game.

He and Neho are part an emerging talent pool - a "brat pack" of golfers - pushing each other to greater things.

"There is a whole bunch of us who always practise together and it's made a real difference having guys with the same skill level to practise with - it helps your game and you're always picking up little bits of knowledge from them."

Masters and Neho were an integral part of the Boys' High team who won the national secondary schools' title last year.

Masters was selected as the province's top junior of 2012, before the pair represented Northland at the Toro National Interprovincials in Dunedin. The team came sixth, their best finish since 1987.

Pelsky said Masters had improved a lot in the past year and had the temperament to succeed: "He's been on the Northland scene since he was 12 but in the last 12 months or so he's really come on, mainly by showing the kind of consistency that's really beyond his years."

Neho and Masters make up just under half of the New Zealand men's golf team for Sydney, with only five selected. New Zealand will have 180 competitors at the festival, where about 1800 athletes aged between 13 and 19 will compete in 20 sports.

The golfers will get a taste of Olympic-style village living alongside athletes from other codes and nationalities, offering a unique opportunity for aspiring Olympians to compete in an environment similar to the Olympic Games.

Nations invited include Argentina, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, China, Great Britain, Chinese-Taipei and hosts Australia.

Nine teams of the best age-group golfers from around the world will compete at the Twin Creeks Golf Club. The format will include competitions for men's individual, women's individual and a team event (two men and two women) in 72 holes of stroke play.

Golfers must be under 18 and have a handicap of 3.4 or less for men, and 6.4 for women.

Neho, Masters and swimmer Raravula won't be the first Northlanders to compete at the Youth Olympics, with Kerikeri Olympic silver medallist Blair Tuke beginning his career at the festival.

Tuke's sailing partner, Peter Burling, and London 2012 gold medallist Lisa Carrington also began their careers at the festival.

Neho and Masters will tee off on January 17 and play through to January 20.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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