Exactly a year ago, I was in the Tuwharetoa town of Taupō, watching the finals and attending the prizegiving dinner of the NZ Maori Golf Tournament with a mate of mine who got me back into golf.

My mate Mikaere is a good bugger and answered the call when I off the cuff asked him to hikoi down to Tuwharetoa (tangata whenua of Taupō) and present an award in his role as a rangatira of NZ Golf.

The deal was he come down and front up to the dinner and I would front up as a player in the same tournament next year.

Read more: Tommy Wilson: Digital detox - to hell with the cell
Tommy Wilson: Joy to the world whanau
Tommy Wilson: The kaupapa of kindness will lead us into 2019


Fast forward 12 months and here I am back in Toe Paw (Taupō) - on course and well over par, to make good on my part of the deal with my mate Mikaere, who is now the rangatira (chairman) of the NZ Golf Association.

It's a funny old world golf - and not always of the kata – (comic) variety.

One of my all-time corker quotes on golf is by the late great comedian Robin Williams, who once said, "Golf is the only sport where a white man can dress up like a black pimp and no one cares".

And that's the beauty of this NZ Māori Golf Tournament I have been playing in all week. No one gives a kiore's nono (rats rear end) who you are, who you may or may not have been, or how much or how little you have.

The only currency on this course that matters is how many shots it takes you to smack a little white ball into submission, so it falls in to a little black cup - burrowed into a perfectly mown patch of green grass.

Love it or loathe it, golf is a game like no other for bringing out the true character of the person playing it. If you carry a temper on course - or the temptation to lose one, golf is probably not for you. The same goes for honest addition when counting the cost of your inadequacies.

Golf can be frustrating and rewarding in the matter of a single shot, and off the course golf has had its share of rock stars who have fallen from grace, none more so than Tiger, who couldn't help himself when it came to putting his putter in the wrong bag.

Then there are the true gentlemen and women of the game who have played more rounds and hit more balls than a greenkeeper has picked up on a practice fairway.


I met two of them today on round three of my first ever "tourney".

Nehe Dewes, 82 years young, and his loving wife Lucy trumped all of my golfing magic moments, even Tiger who I watched play at the British Open with our own golfing icon Michael Campbell.

Ironically, Cambo is back in Aotearoa and on course today, mentoring the tamariki and being inducted into the Maori Golfing hall of fame. However, it was the 82-year-old priest from Te Puia - and his sweetheart wife - who stole the show for me. When he didn't have a club in his hand it was being held by his wife, who like a loyal retriever, spurred him on with a smile that could have powered up every buggy on the Taupo Golf course.

That's the great thing about golf, you never know who you are going to get as a playing partner when you enter a tourney.

They say the family that plays together stays together - whatever the activity. In our family golf has been the glue that has held us together when it came to tough times.

Many rounds ago back when Ben Hogan was probably still king of the course and Nehe was a nipper, my Mum took up golf.

She loved the game and got good at it quickly, with a wicked wind up that would send the ball hurtling down the Mount and Omanu fairways.

The big bonus was golf boosted my Mum's confidence around people - especially non-Māori, who she did not have a healthy track record with from the get-go, given she was punished at school for speaking the only language she knew from an early age, causing her to change her name and attitude toward the Tauiwi (European) world.

The family golfing highlight for me was coming home to caddy for my nephew in the early 90s who was playing in the schoolboy champs, the same day my big sister was playing in the senior club champs and my Mum in the vets (veterans).

What a trifecta of champions when all three collected the winner's trophy.

I thought about Mum in between shots today and the magic moments walking with her long into the warm summer's nights as she took time out from her 11 kids.

Shots that for me numbered many more than the age of the priest from Te Puia.


Tommy Wilson writes under the pen name Tommy Kapai. He is a local best-selling author, writer and columnist in this paper for 18 years. He is also the executive director of Te Tuinga Whanau Social Support Services.