Editor at large Shayne Currie is on a two-week road trip, to gauge the mood of the nation and meet everyday and notable Kiwis making a difference in their communities and wider world. Today we also have Nine Questions With... Nadia Lim and it was an eventful day on State Highway 1 as the daily diary reveals.
Jacob Troake used to carry the golf clubs for his little brother, who harboured hopes of being a professional player.
Now he’s carrying his extraordinary dream.
Jacob’s brother Peter - a “monster of a man” in height and personality and “my role model” - died in 2017, aged just 18, of a rare bone cancer.
Before he died, Peter - a budding young golfer - had a dream of playing every golf course in New Zealand, all 406 of them, to help raise money for Cure Kids.
He had seen, first-hand, the plight of kids with cancer and other ailments in Auckland’s Starship Hospital, and literally came out swinging, with his project dubbed Putting with Purpose.
Jacob, now 29, still remembers the conversation he had with his brother, soon before his tragic death. It was a conversation that took him by surprise.
“It feels like I had the conversation yesterday... we never really talked too much about him passing but out of the blue he said ‘look, I’ve started Putting with Purpose and I’m making my way through it but if anything was to ever happen, if I don’t make it for whatever reason, the one thing that I ask is that you continue. I really don’t want that to stop’.
“And that was the only thing he ever asked of anyone in the family or anything even discussing his passing. It took me by surprise but equally it also put a lot of importance on it for me.”
In the seven years since, Jacob has played 172 courses, all across the country, with 234 to go. He’s raised $12,500 so far.
He is aiming to play the 200th course on April 5 next year, Peter’s birthday. He is working with Golf New Zealand to play on the Remuera course, one of a handful he has yet to play in Auckland.
Jacob says he hadn’t played the sport and was “actually really bad at golf” when he picked up the mantle.
He had previously carried Peter’s bags, especially as he became weaker with his cancer.
“Obviously with the cancer being in his lungs, he couldn’t do too much exertion. I was on the golf course and I really enjoyed it.
“It was really special spending those times with Peter. It was cool, but I’d never really swung a club before that.
“So when he passed away, I said ‘okay, here we go. I’m going to follow up on what I promised him and carry on the journey’. I was still figuring out which end of the golf club to hold.”
His handicap has now dropped to as low as 12, but is between 15-18 at the moment. “I’d like to get my handicap down, but equally it’s a pretty frustrating sport.”
Regardless, he says he’s come to love the game. “That’s been a special connection throughout this journey - it’s almost like I’m getting closer to Peter by understanding what he enjoyed about the game, whereas I never really saw much interest in it when he was even playing.
“But along the way, I’ve been meeting people, understanding the game, understanding the rules and I have come to love the sport quite a lot. It’s now like a bit of an addiction.
Shayne Currie is travelling the country on the Herald’s Great New Zealand Road Trip. Read the full series here.
“Which is nice. Now I’m doing it for a couple of reasons - I enjoy it and because I get to carry on Peter’s journey. I get to keep talking about him, and I have these sorts of conversations.
“That’s probably what I like most. It is not necessarily just swinging the golf club and seeing some incredible parts of New Zealand.”
He’s played on some of the country’s top courses - such as Te Arai Links and Wairākei - but also thoroughly loves playing on lesser-known, beautifully-maintained courses such as Hororata in Canterbury, Paeroa on the Hauraki Plains, and the Twelve Oaks course in Mosgiel, near Dunedin.
Then there are volunteer-run courses where sheep are used as lawnmowers and electric fences keep animals off the greens.
“There’s some memorable courses; trying to avoid being electrocuted as you step on the greens,” he jokes.
“You might come across one farmer who’s playing alongside and you get talking. They ask questions and you get to talk about Peter, which is really cool. It sort of feels like it makes Peter live on longer and that’s why this journey is so cool because I want to continue to talk about him.”
Peter, he says, was an “incredible human” with the ability - even at the ages of 10 or 12 - to talk to “any Joe Bloggs” and take genuine interest in, and care for, their lives.
He heard stories at his funeral that he never knew at the time, such as Peter helping care for kids who were being bullied at school.
“He was an absolute monster of a man - about six foot four, six foot five. He was physically big and he had a very big personality.
“As an older brother, typically you’d say I’m meant to be the role model to him but in every way he was the role model to me.
“He knew what he believed in and he stuck to that. He was very honest and outgoing; bubbly with a wicked smile. He was a bit of magnet for people.”
Jacob’s next big trip, following stints in Coromandel in two weeks and Tauranga later in November, will be to Invercargill.
They generally try to take five days at the end of a month, to knock off 10 courses.
“It takes a toll when you’re on the fifth day - if you’re doing a trip, you’re wanting to get as many ticked off as you can.”
He tries to play, balancing work commitments. Troake and his brother-in-law Nick run his family’s building business, focusing on interior finishes.
While life can sometimes be difficult - the weather’s poor and things are expensive - he reflects on his good health.
“I am very lucky because I am 29 years old and physically fit and still able to enjoy life. Whereas my brother wasn’t able to do that. And I think that always manages to recentre me and put things into perspective.
“I’m sure Peter would want to trade places at any stage. I do use him as a bit of a reference almost daily, when things do get tough, that I am where I am. I have a loving family and a lovely wife and a good job.”
When will the 406 courses be complete? He’s aiming for 50 courses a year, meaning the project might still be another five years or longer from completion.
“I don’t want to rush it - I kind of dread the day that it’ll be over because the journey will have finished. On one hand, I want to be working closer towards that final achievement but I also certainly don’t want to rush it because it is such an enjoyable journey.
“Peter was one of my best friends. We were really close. Having him pass was a hole but having this journey gets to fill a little bit of that hole.”