When Michael Campbell was an up and coming teenage golfer, one of his many outstanding achievements was winning the New Zealand Māori Golf National Tournament at just 19 years of age.

Last week, Rotorua's James Tauariki replicated that achievement, taking top honours at the tournament. The difference? James is only 16.

The Rotorua Boys' High School student is no stranger to making headlines. In October he scored a remarkable 13 under par 57 on his home course at the Springfield Golf Club, which may be the lowest numerical score ever recorded on a New Zealand course.

Modest as ever, James said his latest achievement was "pretty cool".


"It was pretty exciting. I played in the tournament last year and won the second division. It was exciting to win the top division this year.

"I felt like I was playing alright in the qualifying, not my best but it was enough."

The 82nd edition of the tournament was hosted by the Taupō Golf Club. Players took part in qualifiers on Monday and Tuesday before competing in matchplay for the next three days.

In the final, on Friday, James beat one of his mentors, Kawerau's Marcus Lloyd, in the final.

"I think I played pretty well in the final. Marcus was a good challenge, he's just a real solid golfer. I beat him six up with five holes to go."

He said the Māori tournament win was his best to date, but a bit of a surprise considering he had not done a lot of practise recently.

James also competes in rodeo - he went straight from the tournament on Friday to the Whangarei Rodeo. Being the middle of the rodeo season, he has not had as much time for golf of late.

"It's rodeo mode at the moment. That's not going as good as the golf, but it's good fun. It's good to get away from the golf for a bit and have a bit of a break. That's why I didn't expect much at the Māori tournament - I haven't been practising at all so it was a surprise."


He said being a Māori tournament made it more special to win.

"It's one I've always wanted to win. It's my favourite tournament, the environment is pretty chill. It's really social, but it's competitive as well. It's a pretty nice course, pretty similar to the ones in Rotorua."

New Zealand Māori Golf Association vice president Crete Wana spoke glowingly of James' performance.

"His golf this week was outstanding. Right throughout the week we had people following him and jaws dropping. It's pretty amazing the way he played - I picked him to win it three months ago and he stepped up. When he shot that 57 at Springfield a few months ago, that's just incredible."

Wana was just as impressed by James' maturity as his golfing ability.

"For a guy who's only 16 to go out there and play that sort of golf, under that sort of pressure, is fantastic. To play one of his mentors and beat him six and five, that's champion material without a doubt.

"He shows wisdom and he doesn't let anything faze him and he's very respectful. He comes across confident, he's not cocky, he's not arrogant, but he's respectful and goes about his game like no other kid that I've ever seen.

"Probably the only other fella I've seen like that was Danny Lee. They're out of the same club too, so they're obviously doing something right. He's on the same path as other champions like Danny Lee, Michael Campbell and Phil Tataurangi at almost the same age.

"There's so many superlatives you can say about the kid, but I think he's the real deal."

Wana said the tournament as a whole was "fantastic".

"We had 67 rangatahi, kids under 19, excluding the guys we had in the championship, which was about 10. So, we had more than 70 under-19s playing in the tournament - the most we've ever had and the largest group we had. There were more than 200 players overall.

"It's good for the future of Māori golf, but for golf in general as well. The last 10 years there has been a decline in golf, but now we're starting to see a resurgence which is what we need."

He said there was a high standard of golf throughout all the divisions.

"We had some good top class players in the championship division, the top 16 were fantastic. Of those there were five under-20 years old, three of which came out of the Geyserland Junior Golf system."

The association's focus now turns to the 83rd edition of the tournament in 2020. They have a 10 year deal with the Taupō Golf Club which has four years left to run.