WHEN Vaughan McCall was 12 years old playing three holes with his grandparents in Tapanui was never enough for him.
"It was something to do. Three holes were never enough for me but it was for nana and grandad," a grinning McCall said of Heather and Jack Sheppard, who he visited every weekend.
After 72 holes yesterday the 20-year-old Gore Golf Club member created history in becoming the first Southland golfer to win the Lion Foundation New Zealand Strokeplay Championship in Hastings.
The plus-three handicapper showed nerves of steel as he threw down the gauntlet to Luke Toomey, 18, of Hamilton, and Fraser Wilkin, of Auckland, at the turn for a 13-under-par total to win the title at the Hastings Golf Club by five shots.
The young man, who last year led Southland to their first Toro Interprovincial tournament victory in 61 years, said he had learned a lot from his first round of 73 on Thursday which yielded costly mistakes.
McCall, who won the South Island Strokeplay last year, didn't panic.
Instead, he simply re-adjusted to adhere to his game plan.
"The game out there was much tighter than the score suggested.
"Luke played really well and we were quite tight through the turn and a couple of two-shot swingers on the likes of nine was crucial and No 12 I birdied so that put some major pressure on Luke who just fell away so that was the big turning point there."
Coming into the nationals, McCall didn't fancy his chances of a victory with a plethora of elite amateurs in the field.
"But I knew if I played really well, like I did on Saturday, I knew the scores would come my way."
His game plan was simple - just keep the ball on the fairway.
"In the first round I had a few drives out there, hit the trees and made a few bogeys so there was my lesson learned.
"Keep it on the fairway. I knew my reach game's good enough ..."
McCall handed his card before preparing a hasty podium speech but not before some housekeeping amid laughter in the marquee.
"I got a couple of scores of Luke's wrong but he's he fixed me up - a good, honest man."
For the youngster who collected Christmas hampers, got a handicap and bought a set of clubs, McCall knew as a Year 12 pupil he wanted to be a golfer.
His sheep-farming parents, Ngarie and the late Stephen McCall, wholeheartedly supported him.
"I thought, 'Sweet', went out got a job and started playing golf and started taking it seriously."
His father died two years ago so his mother leased out the farm while McCall works on another dairy "flood" farm.
"The farm floods a lot so there's so much work, you know, debris on the fences and that."
His boss lets him off to practice his chipping, driving and putting after a 7am-2pm shift.
Taming the the PGA Tour courses someday remains a dream.
"To get there it'll take me a long time. I want to go to the European Tour first and then Asia, maybe.
"It's not really dead set in my mind yet but I know where I want to go." said a laughing McCall, when asked if he was American because of his accent.
"No, no. That'll just be my 'Rs'. In Southland we just roll our 'Rs' a bit more."
The gusts buffeting Bridge Pa course, he said, reflecting some of the scores.
"We all teed off on the first hole and the wind came up.
"I thought, 'Sweet, this is me'. I play in a lot of wind down South."
That mindset might just come in handy for McCall who is looking forward to the NZ PGA Pro-Am Championship at The Hills next week. Toomey, who set the pace most of the three days, said: "I came out here for a W [win] but I can't complain because I've had an awesome week."
He lauded McCall for playing steady all week.
"Today it was just a different ball park but I've got no complaints - just happy," he said, lamenting a putter that went off the boil. Other than that, there wasn't anything else I could have done different."
Toomey, 18, also thanked his coach, Glenn Millen, and the boys at the Pro Drive, in Hamilton, for investing their time in him.
Landyn Edwards, of Rotorua, won the Neil Woodbury - Te Mana A Toi trophy for the low round of the tourney with an eight under 64 on Saturday.
"I'm going through some swing changes with my coach, Jay Carter, and we are working on more control of the ball," said Edwards who followed a 72 on Thursday with a 78 before his 64 on Saturday and a 70 yesterday.