Talk nice guys in Hawke's Bay sport and it doesn't take long for golfer Stuart Duff's name to pop up.
He's modest, humble and astute ... the perfect role model for students at Lindisfarne College where he teaches.
So it was no surprise Duff, 56, played down his chances of retaining his New Zealand Men's Senior Open Championship title when his Hastings club hosts the prestigious tournament at the Bridge Pa course this week.
"What happened last year is irrelevant," Duff said referring to his four-stroke victory over fellow New Zealand senior representative Brent Paterson of Auckland Royal Golf Club.
"I've got to go out there and play well this year. Yes, playing on the home course is an advantage - but I still have to get my head right and play properly."
The former Central Districts cricketer, who plays off a plus two handicap, has had a busy time on greens close to home and overseas since he received the masters award at the annual Hawke's Bay Sportsperson of the Year function back in May.
Late last year Duff was a member of the New Zealand seniors team which finished second by one shot to hosts Japan at the Asia Pacific tournament.
He finished sixth equal in the individual section of the tournament.
"I was reasonably happy with that result. But at the same time I had an average finish over the last four holes and when the team loses by one shot that is disappointing," Duff said.
In August last year Duff beat clubmate Tyson Tawera in a sudden-death playoff for the amateur title at the Napier club's annual 54-hole Kapi Tareha Memorial tournament.
Not long after that tournament he won the Hastings club championship title for the 11th time with a 5 and 4 victory over promising Hawke's Bay rep Mako Thompson in their 36-hole final.
"I was lucky I got him on an off day because he had had a good year. That might not happen again," Duff said, again displaying his modest qualities.
This week's tournament will be his seventh assault on the national title. He said he hasn't trained any more than normal.
"Being a teacher I've had the holidays to prepare," Duff said.
When asked who had the best chance of dethroning him Duff replied: "Anybody who is out there."
An injury forced the 2017 winner of the title, Paterson, to withdraw from the tournament.
"That's unlucky for him but it does make it slightly easier for the rest of us," Duff said.
The tournament is part of the selection process for the New Zealand seniors team so Duff won't be short of incentives to retain his title. He will have long-time friend Rick Ellis on his bag for the tournament.
"I don't know if it's a winning formula but it's a formula," Duff quipped.
His coach, Hastings PGA professional Brian Doyle, who had a session with him on Monday, is confident Duff is ready to retain his title.
"Stuart has come to me regularly over many, many years now and like a good wine he keeps getting better and better," Doyle said.
"We just had to do a few minor tweaks. We looked at his full swing and his chipping action ... he's ready."
"Concentration levels along with the expectations and pressure associated with playing at home will be what he needs to focus on this week. He's used to that sort of thing from his cricketing days but I just need to remind him," added Doyle, who can't wait to take in the action.
The tournament attracted 215 entries. Thirty-six players were balloted out to produce a field of 176.
Tomorrow is a practice day and three rounds, one each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, of strokeplay will decide the placings.