IT'S amazing how one hobby can sometimes lead to another ... just ask Hawke's Bay golf croquet player Ian Brown.
Five years ago he was on a Hawke's Bay British and European Car Club rally when fellow member John Versey invited them to the Marewa Croquet Club afterwards so he could teach them golf croquet.
"I didn't follow it up at the time but three years ago I did when I got another opportunity and I've been playing ever since," Brown recalled.
This week Brown, 72, will chase podium finishes in both singles and doubles play during the North Island championships which are being hosted by his Heretaunga Croquet Club. Nine Hawke's Bay players are among eight pairs which will play doubles tomorrow and Friday and 14 Hawke's Bay players including top seed Tony Stephens will play in the singles on Saturday and Sunday.
Although he hasn't played golf for at least six years he got down to a 13 handicap during more than 40 years of playing at the Napier club.
"Both games are very much a mental thing and the hand-eye co-ordination has transferred from golf. I've got the bug and it's not uncommon for me to be at the club six times a week either playing or training. Playing in the nationals is a definite possibility in the future but I will leave international play for the young ones ... I'm not aggressive enough," Brown said.
A Scotsman from Glasgow who celebrated 50 years of New Zealand residency earlier this year, Brown gets his stamina for golf croquet from two of his other favourite hobbies - tramping and cycling.
"I'm a member of the Amblers club. We alternate between tramping and cycling every Wednesday."
While this week's tournament is the two-handicapper's first North Island championships he has recorded a top-five finish at the prestigious Gold and Silver Stars tournament in Takapuna and a seventh placing at the Rotorua Open. Brown is playing with Hawke's Bay stalwart and clubmate Don Reyland in the doubles.
"Don is a good player who plays off a zero handicap. The doubles is our best chance of a podium. When you look at the stars in the singles draw a podium might be a big ask for me," the competitive Brown said with a grin.
Aucklander Josh Freeth and Taranaki's Felix Webbey are both using the event as part of their build-up to the world open and under-21 championships in Melbourne next year. Whakatane's Mike Crashley and Morrinsville's John Christie are other starters this week who are also world champs-bound.
Christie won the North Island singles title last year and the doubles title with Stephens. They will attempt to retain the doubles title this week.
Brown is rapt to see Freeth and Webbey among the entries.
"Our club will next year embark on a programme to get more secondary school players involved. Hopefully some will come along this week and see what the likes of Josh and Felix can achieve. The potential is there for youngsters to travel to places like Australia and Egypt.
"Taranaki and Nelson are regarded as strongholds for youth in our sport. We would like Hawke's Bay to be another," Brown added.
This week's doubles play will involve at least one round of round robin play and possibly two depending on the weather. Section play in singles will involve will involve two sections of 12 and the top four from each will qualify for the championship playoffs.