Sitting under the veranda of the Lakeview Golf Club, Dennis Cope saw flames lashing out of the door. Within minutes the entire building was engulfed and there was nothing he could do as he watched a place he called his second home turn to ashes. Cira Olivier reports.
"My name is, was, on the wall."
Dennis Cope corrects himself as he looks at the remains of a building which held too many memories for him to recall. Memories made over 46 loyal years.
On Saturday afternoon, the Lakeview Golf Club, in Tarukenga, Rotorua, was completely gutted by a fire.
Six fire trucks and two tankers, as well as police and St John, were called to the scene just before 1pm.
Smoke billowed and onlookers sat at surrounding picnic tables and in golf carts.
One of the onlookers was Cope, who had been sitting under the veranda when he noticed the flames.
"You could see the flames on the doorway and by the time we got up ... it was just up the ceiling, up the wall," he said.
"I felt helpless."
Cope had a flat on the course, about 30m from the now-gutted clubhouse - a place he'd formed friendships since 1974.
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It was a way to meet new people and share stories, an important aspect of golf.
Cope predicted he would be home a lot more now.
He had a passion for golf and hit the greens at least once a week.
Golf was "pretty much" his life and if he was not sharing a beer, he would help with the maintenance of the grounds.
Cope said there was no doubt the fire would impact the modest membership of 170, but he would remain loyal "forever".
Visions of a Helping Hand founder Tiny Deane watched as firefighters worked to muffle the smoke.
"They call it the 19th hole," he said of the clubhouse.
"That's where you go, sit down, have a chinwag and meet a lot of people ... It's a real community. You grab a bite and a beer before you go home.
Deane got into golf 15-years ago with his two sons. Their first taste of the sport was at the Lakeview Golf Club.
As they got better, they branched out, trying a range of courses but Deane decided two months ago to become a member.
A group of 30 people from the National Service Club in Hawke's Bay were scattered on the course when the blaze began on Saturday.
The group came to Rotorua specifically to play golf, visiting the Springfield Golf Club on Friday, Lakeview on Saturday and the Rotorua Golf Club on Sunday.
Kim Elers said they were on the course when they saw the smoke and someone ahead of them said the clubhouse was on fire.
"Everybody was really sad for them," she said.
Mike Patton, from the group, had a beer in hand as he said he had just finished the 18th hole when the fire started.
He said it took all but five minutes for the entire building to become engulfed.
"It's amazing how quickly it happened," he said.
Firefighters were on the scene from about 1pm until 7pm. No one was injured in the fire which will be investigated.
This is not the first time the club has been affected by fire.
On Christmas Day in 2013 fire crews were called to a two-bedroom flat which sits alongside the driving range.
The flat was owned by the golf club and was one of two former motel units moved to the site in 1991.
The flat's occupier told the Rotorua Daily Post at the time, he had been heading to Auckland to visit his brother but had first gone into Rotorua to fill up his car with petrol.
On the way back out past the golf club, he saw "a lot of smoke" coming from the direction of his home so went to investigate.
"It was ablaze ... the whole front was flames coming out everywhere and explosions," he said.
He called 111 but the fire crews were already on the way, after being alerted by a neighbour.