Bay of Plenty proved they will be the team to beat at next month's Toro Men's Interprovincial Tournament after winning their eighth Garrard Shield in a row at the Kerikeri Golf Club.
They got off to a shaky start with a 4-4 draw against a seriously weakened Auckland side, before taking on the locals.
Harry Hillier was composed in defeating former professional Saali Herewini 2/1 and Tyler King held it together to win 4/3. Sam Davis won comfortably while Hayden Beard lost on the 18th.
In a classic finale, two magical moments turned everything in the Bay's favour.
Firstly Bailey Smith made a remarkable up and down on the 18th, from rough in a gully 40m from the pin, to halve the hole and hold his precious 1-up lead. Then at the culmination of a high quality match between the two number ones, Bay's Charlie Hillier went one down to last year's New Zealand amateur champion Kadin Neho, when he made his fourth birdie on the back nine on the par 5, 17th.
On the 18th, Hillier put his drive behind trees and just off the fairway about 150m out. With a shot the late, great recovery master Seve Ballesteros would have been proud of, Hillier fired his ball over the trouble to land just 2m from the pin. Neho hit his shot to within 4m but could not make the birdie.
Cometh the hour, cometh the hero, as Hillier stayed composed to sink a tricky slider and gain the half that secured the 4.5 to 3.5 victory to deny Northland their first Garrard Shield success.
Bay of Plenty easily beat Waikato next morning to claim the title as central North Island provincial golf champions.
Top amateurs to face off
Golfing fans should contemplate a trip to Taupo this weekend to watch some of the best amateur golfers in New Zealand in action.
A showdown between arguably the two best provincial teams, Bay of Plenty and Manawatu-Wanganui, will see the eight-man teams in highly competitive matchplay at Wairakei and Kinloch.
With the Bay sneaking home at Balmacewen at the Interprovincials in 2012, and Manawatu/Wanganui dominating at North Shore last year, there is a special edge to the weekend to be played on two of the country's premier courses.
Both teams are at full strength.
Manawatu-Wanganui have Josh Munn and Tyler Hodge returning from the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship staged last week at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
Marton golfer Lachie McDonald, who competed at the weekend at the John Jones Steel Harewood Open, will play at No3 as they look to back up their dominant performance at North Shore.
Bay of Plenty have Charlie Hillier and Landyn Edwards at the top of their side and consistent players throughout their team including Sam Davis, Hayden Beard and Bailey Smith fresh from the Bay's Garrard Shield success.
This weekend's event will play an important role for the selectors as they look to settle on their leading five players for the Toro Men's Interprovincial in December.
The winner will also leave Taupo with added confidence as they head into the most important team tournaments of the year.