Taranaki's Felix Webby had mate George Coulter's number twice to confirm he is the young gun to beat in golf croquet in New Zealand.
"I'm stoked," Webby said after a convincing 2-0 start before making it harder for himself as Coulter bounced back to level 2-all in the singles final of the New Zealand Golf Croquet Championship staged at Heretaunga Croquet Club in Hastings on Saturday.
The 18-year-old from New Plymouth pipped Coulter 3-2 (7-5, 7-2, 6-7, 3-7, 7-4) to show his World Under-21 Championship crown in Australia over the same opponent was no fluke last year.
"After having a shot to sort of win it in the third game I was sort of ruing that miss for the next game but I was able to get back into it in the final game," he said.
The Francis Douglas Memorial College graduate didn't let the occasion get to him.
He took a step back with his mallet and started taking time to think his shots through more methodically.
Webby, who is heading to Otago University to pursue a degree in health science, exorcised his demons from 2016 when he lost in the fifth game in Hamilton to multiple title-winning champion Duncan Dixon, of Christchurch.
His next goal is to switch to the mindset association croquet demands before the nationals in Christchurch in a fortnight.
"It's quite a tough competition and it's a leadup to the association croquet world champs next month," he said of the bigger tournament in Wellington from February 3.
Webby said his steely resolve from Saturday's fifth game and the countless hours of practising should surface in the traditional format.
Coulter preferred to see his runner-up position more as a confirmation to tee up for the next final rather than lacking in mental fortitude.
"We both played really good so I came out proud because I couldn't have played any better so it was a championship-winning match," he said.
The 21-year-old from Whakatane felt he could have tilted the crown in his favour had he been a little more aggressive.
"I have been quite a defensive player so you have to be aggressive against Felix because he's too good."
Coulter, a supermarket employee and part-time tertiary student, said he clawed his way back in the third and fourth games of the best-of-five set but could not maintain that pressure and momentum.
"I've always made it to the semifinals but to make it to the final this season was fantastic."
The minus-four handicapper's next goal is to win the national bragging rights when it is hosted in Auckland.
Last year's champion Edmund Fordyce, 17, of Methven, who has a heart condition, had to settle for third place after beating Josh Freeth, of Auckland, 2-1 (3-7, 7-4, 7-3).
Host club member Helen Reeves and Geoffrey Vautier won the plate finals.
Golf Croquet HB publicity officer Colleen Stephens said sportsmanship prevailed.
Stephens said the conditions of the lawns and the catering at the Heretaunga and Marewa clubs were a credit to the diligent members.
"We had amazing weather. In the final, they made the hoops from 20 [metres] away," she said.
The clubs will host the Women's World Golf Croquet Championship in February next year.