Golf: Top golfer overlooked for tournament

By Dana Johannsen

Chantelle Cassidy has decided not to appeal to the Sports Tribunal, as it would be negative for the sport. Photo / APN
Chantelle Cassidy has decided not to appeal to the Sports Tribunal, as it would be negative for the sport. Photo / APN

The omission of one of the country's top female golfers for the world teams championship in Japan later this year has caused a storm in amateur circles.

Chantelle Cassidy, who won the New Zealand amateur championship in April, was not named in the New Zealand team for the Espirito Santo tournament, considered the pinnacle event in women's amateur golf. Cassidy missed out to Mun Chin Keh (Titirangi) and Julianne Alvarez (Manor Park), ranked one and two in the New Zealand Order of Merit respectively, and US-based Zoe-Beth Brake - a player who quit the New Zealand Golf Academy in frustration four years ago after, ironically, being overlooked for selection for the same tournament.

Brake has been in the US College system for the past 18 months but returned to New Zealand this month to play at an Order of Merit tournament in Matamata. She went head-to-head with Cassidy at that tournament, with Cassidy winning.

Cassidy, who plays out of Cambridge Gold Club, and coach Geoff Pitman met NZ Golf this week to contest the decision, but the national organisation is standing by its selections.

Pitman said NZ Golf chief executive Dean Murphy outlined how the selectors came to their decision and while they are not satisfied with the explanation, they have little choice but to accept it.

"I wouldn't say I was comfortable with the decision, I'm never comfortable when New Zealand's best women's golfer behind Lydia Ko misses out, but we accept the decision."

Pitman said Cassidy did not want to appeal the decision to the Sports Tribunal, as it would be negative for the sport, but he questioned the criteria the selectors applied. Cassidy is the national matchplay champion and 2013 strokeplay champion.

"I don't believe the College system is anywhere near the standard of the New Zealand high-performance system, which is one of the best in the world," he said. "There has been only one major success through the US College system over the past 20 years, and that is Marnie McGuire."

NZ Golf high performance manager Gregg Thorpe said Brake has posted some good results for Ohio State University and gained valuable overseas experience.

"The courses that she's playing on over there are actually of a higher standard than what we play on over here. One of the important things we like to do is challenge players to play internationally, and that is often at their own cost," he said. "If you look at any one player against another, they don't play the same tournament schedule so that is part of the skill of the selectors is to be able to look across the different playing environments and make their selections."

Brake's return to the national fray comes four years after she quit the NZ academy in disgust and threatened to give the game away for good after missing out on the 2010 world teams championship. At the time Brake hit out at NZ Golf, claiming the selectors had not followed the criteria that was communicated to the athletes.

"There were points that listed what the team was selected on and some of the other girls didn't meet that criteria," Brake told the Rotorua Daily Post in 2010. "My results were good enough to be in the four; not just results but my commitment to New Zealand golf, my leadership and respect to other squad members. There are players that don't deserve to be there with some of the rubbish that has gone on overseas."

After walking away from the game, Brake joined the Royal New Zealand Navy, serving for two and a half years before taking up an opportunity to play in the Ohio State University women's golf programme in January last year.

Thorpe said while Brake left the New Zealand programme in controversial circumstances, he believes both parties have moved on from that period.

"I wasn't at the management helm of the programme at that stage, but I was aware of those issues. People do voice their opinions, but it's not something that should be held over their heads forever more. We wouldn't want to be guilty of ostracising a player for airing their views," he said.

Cassidy also has a controversial history, serving a year-long suspension when she was 17 after being caught falsifying her score at the 2010 New Zealand women's amateur strokeplay championship. This did not have any bearing on recent selections, with Cassidy having since represented New Zealand in other top international events.

- NZ Herald

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