Ring-in Richard Craven had some making up to do on the home front but figured it was worth sneaking out on Mother's Day to play golf after reigning champions Tauranga cruised into consecutive finals with a big win over Rotorua on their home course yesterday.
An original selection for Tauranga, 46-year-old Craven has put family and fishing (in that order too, he hastens to point out) ahead of golf and hardly fronted in Bay of Plenty Golf's championship pennant series this season.
But a late call-up this week to fill in down the order, with No 1 Sam Davis away in Christchurch before he heads to the UK for two months to play, whetted Craven's appetite and he did not disappoint, winning both matches yesterday as Tauranga romped to a 10-2 win over Rotorua.
Tauranga will take on Mt Maunganui in Sunday's final at the neutral Taupo venue after they downed Omanu 7-4 in the other championship semi.
Craven said it took a bit of persuading before he got the green light to turn out for Tauranga.
"I made the team on merit right back before the season started but found there were a couple more important things that cropped up, like fishing.
"I haven't played [pennant golf] for four years, with three kids at home, and don't think it was a popular call on Mother's Day to be dashing out the door early in the morning for 36 holes of golf. But a semifinal, especially at home, is exciting to be a part of and hopefully I'll be needed for the final now too because I think that'll be a first."
Craven was an ideal go-to guy, with club championship titles at Muriwai, Tauranga, Whangamata and Omanu, as well as representing Bay of Plenty, North Harbour and Waikato at interprovincial level.
He and John Waretini combined for a 4 and 3 foursomes win over Ruel Pedersen and Steve Hollway, with Tauranga sweeping the morning matches, and saw off Dave Humphrey by the same margin as Tauranga cruised home, with Karl Knedler, Ben Shanley, Blair Murdock and Eddie Burgess also winning their singles matches.
Craven, who plays off a two handicap, has been striking the ball sweetly this year and said the fast start in foursomes was key.
"It shows the team's emphasis on foursomes and our true depth. There's been a lot of thought gone in this year to personality combinations and it looks like it's paying off."
Mt Maunganui also made a winning start, leading 3-1 at the turn, but made to battle down the stretch by Omanu, with four of the eight singles matches decided on the last hole.
No 8 Warren Steward, in for Owen Kendall who is nursing a back strain, got an important 1 up win over Ronn Sisson. With Bailey Smith and Hayden Beard already in, it tipped the balance Mount's way.
Whether that balance can tip again for the final is uncertain, although Mount No 3 Campbell Irvine is glad home course advantage won't be a factor.
"Tauranga will be hard to bowl regardless but I don't think it was fair on Rotorua today, having to play them on their home track, although the 10-2 margin was still a surprise.
"I know I wouldn't be all that happy if it had been us playing them today."
With new baby daughter Penelope in the house, Irvine was another one who snuck out the door in semi-darkness.
Mount have a busy week ahead sifting through their various combinations ahead of the title decider.
"Owen's injury made it interesting and Ginge [Steward] came in and had two good wins. We had to talk Jason Madden into playing, like we do every week, so there will be plenty of phone calls this week deciding who is going to play. I'd say out of Ginge, Jason and Owen we'll need all of them in the eight."
Tauranga 10 Rotorua 2:
Foursomes 4-0 Tauranga: Knedler/Murdock b Smith/Humphrey 1up, Waretini/Craven b Pedersen/Hollway 4 and 3, Feeney/Shanley b Howard/Brown 3 and 2, O'Donnell/Burgess b Edwards/Janin 1up. Singles: Karl Knedler b Steve Holloway 5 and 4, Richard Craven b Dave Humphrey 4 and 3, John Waretini and Kerry Smith all square, Ben Shanley b William Howard 2 and 1, Hayden O'Donnell and Victor Janin all squre, David Feeney lost to William Brown 1 down, Blair Murdock b Ruel Pedersen 4 and 3, Eddie Burgess b Landyn Edwards 2 and 1.
Mt Maunganui 7 Omanu 4:
Foursomes 3-1 Mt Maunganui: Steward/Enright b Sisson/Hudson 4 and 3, Smith/Madden b Grierson/Rasmussen 1up, Hughes/Beard b Gordon/Golding 2 and 1, Irvine/Kendall lost to Kiwi/Hamilton 1 down. Singles: Warren Steward b Ronn Sisson 1 up, Dave Enright lost to Jobey Hudson 2 and 1, Bailey Smith b Adam Grierson 4 and 3, Jason Madden and Justin Rasmussen all square, Mark Hughes and Fraser Gordon all square, Campbell Irvine and Jordan Golding all square, Hayden Beard b Mark Kiwi 5 and 4, Brad Kendall lost to Craig Hamilton 4 and 2.
Senior B semifinals: Lake View 5 Omanu 3, Te Teko 5 Ohope 3.
Silver division ladies: Omanu 8 Rotorua 4, Mt Maunganui 7 Eastern 5.