Hawke's Bay amateur golfer Stuart Duff is the New Zealand men's senior open champion.
Duff set the pace to the three-day championship from day one on Thursday before sealing the victory with a four-stroke margin at Christchurch Golf Club yesterday.
Hastings PGA professional Brian Doyle was "stoked" for the two-plus handicapper from Hastings Golf Club this morning.
"I know how passionate he is and how hard he has worked," said Doyle who coaches him. "It's not just hard for one year but he works at it continuously."
Duff finished with a three-round, four-under-par 212 (71, 70, 71), four strokes ahead of fellow New Zealand senior representative Brent Paterson, of Auckland Royal GC.
Paterson carded a sizzling final-round 67, the best score of the championship, but it was too little, too late for the defending champion who couldn't emulate his six-stroke heroics of last year at the Ohope Golf Club when reeling in Omanu's Andries Cloetes, who was three strokes in front, in a final round that included five birdies.
His 77 on Friday had done too much damage as he finished his campaign in outright second place on an even-par 216 (72, 77, 67).
But this year's championship was Duff's domain. His first-round 71 on Thursday included three birdies, an eagle on the par-4 294m No 18 hole and four bogeys.
The 55-year-old followed it up with five birdies and just one bogey and a double bogey on Friday before a composed four birdies and three bogeys yesterday.
Doyle, the 2001-09 Hawke's Bay amateur coach, recalled how Duff was a studious and affable captain of the team where the youngsters fed off him.
"Nothing changes for him so I'm just thrilled for a guy who has worked so hard for so long," said the 2010 New Zealand high performance coach who also had served with the Titleist and Srixon national academies.
Doyle said Duff was technically sound so throw in his mental fortitude and the result wasn't surprising with his rhythm and tempo.
"He's a very, very consistent player now," he said. "He's a very accurate driver."
Doyle said Duff didn't flinch on tougher courses when tee-off mounds demanded discipline.
"Crucially everyone talks about the importance of putting and, naturally, it is but on tough golf courses you've got to give yourself a start so his driving accuracy is his forte, there's no doubts about that."
The wire-to-wire performance over three days, he said, spoke volumes.
"When you're in front, not after the first day but day two and three, it is very easy to let the demons in your head start chatting away to you."
Doyle said Duff was now in a mental space where he knew "what to think and when to think and when to simply stay in the present tense".
"It's all those old cliches about sport that you hear but the fact is they are true."
Duff's steely resolve was reflected in keeping his composure with a six-stroke lead going into the last four holes where he dropped a shot and Paterson picked up one.
"He coped mentally so for me that is as good as anything."
Craig Newman, of Nelson, and Anthony Chettleburgh, of Feilding, finished third equal on seven-over-par 223 in a field of 99 but four withdrew after the first round and two were disqualified.
The field included Australian, British and Canadian nationals and amateurs.
The Lindisfarne College schoolteacher will make his debut in the 12-member New Zealand Masters team to play Australia at the same venue from tomorrow.
Duff will make his debut with Bob Shirley, of Kaitaia, after the pair qualified by age for the annual two-day Sanctuary Cove Trophy clash.
Hugh Harrison, of Ongaonga, finished 43rd equal on 23-over 239 (81, 76, 82) while Duff's club mate, Paul Clothier, carded 26-over 242 (82, 78, 82) to finish 55th equal.
Doyle said the victory would be a fillip for Duff, the 10-time Hastings club men's open champion, when he makes his debut for his country in the seniors.
Michael Barltrop (Royal Auckland), John Batley (Titirangi), Robbie Bell (Ashburton) Frank Borren (Paraparaumu), Reg Fleet (Gulf Harbour), Murray Martin (New Plymouth), Stu Nicholls (Waitemata), John Sanders (Christchurch) and Bob Shirley (Carrington) will try to claim the trophy they narrowly lost to Australia in July last year.