Moves are under way to try to turn the annual Kapi Tareha Memorial Tournament into a leg of the Bob Charles PGA Tour.
The men's committee of the Napier Golf Club is coming on board and has approved nine professionals to play alongside amateurs for the first time in the host club's history.
"It's the most prestigious event at Napier Golf Club so we'd love to get this tourney off the ground to create a potential Bob Charles Tour event," says club professional Andrew Henare before a field of about 60 men and women tee off in the 54-hole strokeplay tourney at the Waiohiki course at 7.30am today and tomorrow.
Henare says if the tourney acquires New Zealand Order of Merit status, luring up to 50 pros from around the country, it can also double as a Bay amateur section event.
"It'll become a pathway for us in Hawke's Bay to become the first Charles Tour event so that'll be a go-to thing after this year," he says, adding a $40,000 purse will boost the club's chances.
The tourney, he says, was losing its charm and entries reflected that, so injecting pros will add some spark again. Finding sponsors will be on the agenda.
The 33-year-old is indebted to club member Wayne Dohmen, regional manager of Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Taupo Countdown, who sponsored this year's Kapi Tareha tourney.
"We're really grateful that Wayne's come on board with $1500 worth of Countdown vouchers that we'll be playing for."
The professionals for this weekend's tourney include Doug Holloway, of Te Pohue, past winners Daniel Pearce, of Hastings, Tyler Hodge, of Levin, as well as most club pros from the Bay.
"The idea is to try to generate a bit more atmosphere among the top amateurs in Hawke's Bay and give them a class act to play towards," says Henare who finished runner-up to ex-Bay/national amateur-cum-professional Nick Gillespie in 2007.
He is hoping the male pros will card a 14-under winning total to lift the standard of top amateurs such as Mako Thompson.
The field will play 36 holes today and 18 tomorrow at a tourney steeped in Bay and golfing history.
Anthony Mullany was only 5 when Kapi Tareha died in 1953 but he has heard many stories about his grandfather, who went on to become a professional.
Mullany, of Hastings, went on to etch his name on the tournament honours board when he won the event in 1973 as a three handicapper.
"It's great that the club wants to take the tournament back to the great level it was played in the old days," says the former Hawke's Bay amateur representative golfer who claimed about 13 titles at the height of his playing days.
Patoka farmer and former New Zealand amateur champion Hugh Crosse donated the Kapi Tareha Memorial Salver in 1958.
The Kapi Tareha was initially a matchplay tournament with Stuart "The Emperor" Jones the first amateur golfer to etch his name on the salver in 1958. In 1994, it became a strokeplay tournament, with Gerald Nathan becoming the first winner in that format.
It had evolved into a strokeplay event because it became part of the New Zealand trial circuit tourney.
"All I know is that he had a long, slow swing with a bit of a flick," says Mullany, a 70-year-old guitar music teacher.
His father, the late John Mullany, had recounted that story to him several times from the time he was a youngster. The younger Mullany's mother, Tareha's daughter, the late Audrey Mullany, was an adept amateur in her won right and had represented the Bay women's team.
Not playing these days, Mullany loves golf, suspecting it's part of the genetic disposition from the Tareha lineage.
"I used to hit the ball quite long and Kapi had earned the reputation as the longest hitter in the world," he says.
Mullany saw some TV footage once and had heard from word of mouth that a plaque in Waikato still acknowledges Tareha's feat after an American, Jimmy Thompson, reputed to be the longest hitter in the world in yesteryear, challenged his grandfather.
"Kapi hit his first ball across the Waikato River but Jimmy Thompson hit ball after ball and didn't make it," he says. "It's a well-known story."
Jones had reflected on Tareha in Hastings.
"Kapi was a real gentleman. If he had the equipment these guys have today, he'd hit much farther than Tiger Woods can," Jones had declared in July 2005.
Mullany says Tareha's greatest achievement was offering Jones some tips. He remembers his father telling him how former New Zealand Eisenhower Trophy representative Ross Murray, of South Canterbury, asking John Mullany "who's that Maori guy who taught Stuart Jones" a few things.
"Ross Murray used to struggle to beat Stuart Jones," he says of the former Hastings Golf Club member who was considered the greatest amateur in the country to never turn professional. Ross and Jones were national teammates who also competed at several overseas amateur tourneys.
Mullany says the Kapi Tareha tourney used to be popular and boasted huge fields in his heyday.
Tareha, he says, was a six-footer but he is well shy of his grandfather's stature.
His nephew, John Mullany, of Hastings, is the only relative of Tareha who still plays "quality golf".
Another grandson of Kapi, Hugh Tareha, 58, who has carved numerous profiles of his grandfather with relatives proudly standing along the No 9 fairway along the roadside, is teeing off in the tourney today.