They had just ended a 25-year drought so why were the Auckland senior men's amateur golfers sporting poker faces at a sun-drenched Hastings Golf Club today? "You never underestimate your opponents going into any match now because any golfer on any day can beat anyone," Josh Leitch said after the city slickers had trounced Otago 5-0 in the final of the New Zealand Men's Interprovincials — the symbol of the teams' matchplay supremacy.
However, No 5 Leitch went on to elaborate the Aucklanders had snuck into the final by winning the extra hole over Manawatu/Whanganui in their semifinal in the morning.
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"It's a 100 per cent that without Johnny we wouldn't be here," the 28-year-old declared, alluding to No 3 Johnny Tynan who had halved with Trent Munn after the sides were 2.5-all but went on to beat Munn in the 19th hole to ensure Auckland progressed to the final.
"It was him who got us across the line so we did it for him because he did it for us in the morning."
Leitch, a plus two handicapper, said the victory was long overdue for Auckland.
"It's been a long time between drinks for us because some guys in the side weren't even born then so it's finally good to get across the line after coming second in the last couple of years."
The Maungakiekie Golf Club member said that had spurred on the lads in the final because the consecutive defeats had put some fire in the belly.
The builder said it was "phenomenal" at the Bridge Pa course.
"The greens and fairways are some of the best I've seen in all my golfing days and the weather just played its part, too," he said of a venue that used to hold premier men's amateur tournaments in the yesteryear alongside pro-ams.
Leitch said it was probably the last time fans would see the six Auckland team members together with two of them, Tynan and No 4 Kunaal Singh, going to Q (qualifying) school.
"This is probably my last one because I hadn't played in one [interprovincials] for four years so I think going out on a high will be nice so I'll go back to building to earn a dollar that way," Leitch said with grin, thanking New Zealand Golf for staging a riveting event.
Tynan was the first to put the Matt Cormack-captained Auckland on the board in the final this afternoon, beating Ben Patston 5 and 4. Leitch followed, edging Jack Turner, son of former Otago professional Greg, 1up.
Singh and No 2 Jang Hyun Lee had gone dormie up — the leading golfers' margins were the same as the number of holes remaining — in their matches, thus securing the crown for Auckland.
Lee had sunk an 8m birdie putt on the 16th hole to win his match 3 and 2 in a nailbiter against Jonny Mackay.
Auckland top seed Jared Edwards holed a chip shot on the 17th to seal victory over Inia Logan for 2 and 1 victory.
Lee was awarded the player of the tournament for going through undefeated in the five-day tourney.
Captain Logan and his troops were forlorn but the predominantly young side had done remarkably well to make it to the final.
"We're stoked to come this far," he said. "To come second, I reckon, is a bloody good effort even though we're disappointed not to get a win."
Logan saluted Auckland and all the loyal fans but said Otago would return next year to go a step further.
Hawke's Bay finished in seventh position out of 15 teams but missed out on the playoffs.
"We're happy for more, I'm sure, on our home course but we got off to not a great start so it's always very close in these tournaments," said Bay No 5 Stuart Duff, who had got through without a loss, albeit with two halves and not playing round one in the morning after jetting back home, via Auckland, after winning the Asia-Pacific Senior individual title and helping the Kiwis claim team honours in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia two Fridays ago.
Duff said every team would have stories on missing out by the skin of their teeth and that was a reflection on how tight the tourney here was.
"At the end of it you just get what you get and it could have been worse so we've finished the tournament well," said the Lindisfarne College teacher, who was returning to the Bay rep side for the first time since 2010 — for his eight season — when he stepped down after suggestions from then selectors that he was "too old".
Duff echoed the sentiments of other visitors that his home club and its volunteers had done a superb job in preparing the course and catering to players.
"We've had really friendly, happy atmosphere throughout the week and we had great weather so it's great for golf, especially for Hawke's Bay Golf. It's cold here compared with Malaysia," he said with a smile.
He had relished the Bay team environment and oppositions' demeanour as well.
"What I noticed was how friendly the young guys are really compared to how I remember it so I think that's quite nice because you can talk to your opposition and have a nice time so I give a lot of credit to the young guys on how well they conduct themselves and how enjoyable it is to play alongside them."
Daniel Perham, from Aorangi, and Matt Tautari, from Southland, were acknowledged for bringing up their 100th caps for their provinces.
Auckland will defend their crown at home at Whitford Park next year.
Otago 3 v North Harbour 2: Inia Logan lost to James Hydes 5/4, Jonny Mackay bt Kevin Koong 6/4, Ben Patston lost to Kit Bittle 2/1, Sungwoo Lee bt Sung Jin Yeo 3/2, Jack Turner bt Nathan Mayes 2/1.
Auckland 2.5 Manawatu/Whanganui 2.5: Jared Edwards lost to Tyler Wood 3/2, Jang Hyun Lee bt Liam Finlayson 6/4, Johnny Tynan halved with Trent Munn*, Kunaal Singh lost to Tyler Hodge 1up, Josh Leitch bt Regan McConaghty 6/5.
*Tynan bt Munn on the 19th hole for Auckland to progress to final.
.Auckland 5 Otago 0: Jared Edwards bt Inia Logan 2/1, Jang Hyun Lee bt Jonny Mackay 3/2, Johnny Tynan bt Ben Patston 5/4, Kunaal Singh bt Sungwoo Lee 1 up, Josh Leitch bt Jack Turner 1up.
1 Auckland, 2 Otago, 3 North Harbour, 4 Manawatu/Whanganui, 5 Wellington, 6 Canterbury, 7 Hawke's Bay, 8 Aorangi, 9 Waikato, 10 Northland, 11 Bay of Plenty, 12 Tasman, 13 Southland, 14 Taranaki, 15 Poverty Bay.