New Zealand amateur golf representative Stuart Duff has scorched his way to a maiden North Island Seniors Championship crown in New Plymouth.
Duff carded six-under 210 to blitz the field of 47 other competitors by 12 strokes in the 54-hole championship at the par-72 Ngamotu Golf Club yesterday.
The Lindisfarne College accounting teacher set the pace with 69, a one-stroke lead over Reginald Fleet, of Gulf Harbour, on day one but improved his score by another shot on Saturday as the others failed to keep up with him as he established a nine-shot gulf after 36 holes.
"I didn't do much different so it was really what everyone else did, really," said the 56-year-old who carded a one-over 73 on Sunday but never looked like losing his way. "He [Fleet] didn't have a very good round so I ended up with a decent lead at the end of day two."
Mike Leeper, of Matamata, finished second on six-over 222 (75, 71, 76) and Mark Pirihi, of Akarana, was in third-equal position of 10-over 226 with Martin Webber, of Paraparaumu.
Duff, who adheres to the philosophy of playing against oneself rather than sweating over a rival's prowess, had finished third equal in the inaugural championship at the same venue last year.
"It was much more difficult last year as we had two days of torrential rainfall so it was definitely much nicer conditions at the weekend," he said with a modesty many have become accustomed to in the wake of his conquests.
The Hastings Golf Club amateur dispelled any suggestions he was in such a comfortable lead going into the final round that he had taken his foot off the throat of his rivals.
"It was a bit tougher on day three when there was a bit more wind in the second nine," Duff said, revealing the first two days were "almost benign" conditions.
Asked what had been working for him lately, Duff replied he was simply trying to establish a sense of consistency in a game where, frustratingly, players could easily roll out of bed one morning to find their game didn't follow them out from under the duvet.
"I'm trying to do things in the same way, I guess, but I feel like I putted better in this tournament than I sometimes do so you tend to make a few more birdies and your scores are better."
He felt he hit the ball "not professionally good but okay" but his putter kept him up there in the frugality stakes as opposed to other days.
Despite retaining the New Zealand Men's Senior Open title by four strokes at his home club at Bridge Pa in February — emulating his feat by the same margin for the maiden bragging rights in 2017 — Duff still regards Brent Paterson, of Royal Auckland, as the senior men's amateur who sets the yardstick in the country.
"He was injured during the New Zealand Seniors and he wasn't at the North Islands so that's always helpful for anyone else who's there," he said of Patterson.
Duff comes under the tutelage of Hastings PGA professional Brian Doyle who said it simply proved Duff was "premier and dominant" senior amateur in the country.
A former New Zealand A cricket allrounder Central Districts Stag, Duff plays off a +1.5 handicap.
He would have be an irritable bleep on the radar of the national seniors' team selectors to retain his berth this year.
Late last year he was part of the New Zealand seniors' equation who finished runner-up, agonisingly by one stroke to hosts Japan at the Asia Pacific tournament.
For now, Duff will return to playing for his club's flagship men's team in the interclub pennants competition, which is into its second round.
"I don't have anything right now that I'm going away for that I can think of at the moment but if I see something I want to play in I'll see if it suits and go over and have a hit."
Duff doesn't see that lack of continuity at the higher echelons of senior amateurs as a handicap, so to speak.
"Not at all. I have a job so, you know, you can't play away too often."
While he didn't rate the North Island Championship field overly strong, when juxtaposed to the 170-odd at the nationals, it did have fellow senior national representatives in Fleet, John Batley, of Titirangi, and Stuart Nicholls, of Waitemata, in Muriwai, as well as former Hawke's Bay professional and amateur Stuart Gillespie, of Whanganui.
For the record, Duff's club mates Daniel Adcock finished 13th on a 16-over 232 and Paul Clotheir was 17th equal in carding 19-over 235.