The New Zealand Men's team of Vaughan McCall, Joshua Munn, Tyler Hodge and Blair Riordan are in George, South Africa for the inaugural Ten Nations Cup and South African Stroke Play Championship. New Zealand Golf High Performance Manager Gregg Thorpe, who is the Team Manager for this trip, explains how the Kiwi boys have fared in the opening two rounds of the SA Stroke Play and also how they came so close to winning the Ten Nations in the final round.
Gregg Thorpe's Blog:
South African Stroke Play, Oubaai Golf Club.
Day one: It's been a quick turnaround for the teams in the Ten Nations. The guys had Sunday morning to do whatever they wanted before we walked the course later that afternoon. It's a coastal course, but up on the cliffs at Oubaai, quite a way up from sea level. There are a couple of particularly amazing holes that overlook the water but really it's all pretty amazing! Off the back tees it's a bit of a monster but I suspect the tournament committee will mix up the many teeing options to keep the players moving. The guys focused on green mapping and checking yardages on their course walk today.
Day two:It's the official practice round today, these rounds tend to be pretty slow as everyone tries to maximise their opportunity to see the nuances of the course. Today was no different but the guys made sure they got a good look and feel of what lies ahead. The style of the course is based in a modern day links look and feel with a resort flow, it's Ernie Els designed and this is Ernie Els territory, they are pretty proud of him here. Each hole is flanked by housing or sections for housing to be constructed. This gives the feel you are only playing on the golf hole you are on; you don't get to see too many others. The course is actually worth a Google to get a feel for where it is and the routing. The issue I have once play gets underway is the distance between each hole and the links rough I need to cross to see one player compared to another. You see there is a sign on the first tee to identify which of the nine snake varieties are deadly and which are not. So I've been studying that a fair bit.
Day three: Round one: Bugger. The guys have got the worst of the weather and have had to face a stiff breeze that slowly built up during the morning. Vaughan made the best of it battling out a one over par 73. Josh played great but again had to settle for 74 due to the tough conditions. Unfortunately for Blair and Tyler they didn't handle the wind so well and now have a fight on their hands to make the two round cut. The luck of the draw is something that these golfers face and some time it's in your favour and at other times not. For the morning players, all of those with the red numbers, it was their time to strike it a bit lucky. Let's hope the weather is kind, and even, and, well, that it blows tomorrow afternoon... (Once our lads are finished, but I didn't say that...).
Day four: That's better! Josh has made the most of the calm, still and very hot weather this morning to post a seven under 65. He birdied his 16th and 17th hole (the 7th and 8th) and then knocked it on his 18th hole, sinking the putt for eagle and setting him up for a run at the leaders tomorrow. Vaughan had a great yet frustrating morning, it was a bit of a 'could have' 'should have' round so we had to snap him out of the MOS and back in the MOP's before he got too carried away. Even though he felt a bit short -changed it was still an improvement on yesterday and puts him in touch with the leading pack, right where he needs to be. Blair went in fits and starts but just didn't do enough to get himself back within the cut line. Poor old Tyler has the best story to tell but unfortunately won't be playing the next two rounds. He was going along nicely until he came across a snake in the grass playing the fourth hole (on his back nine). Now this means something else at home but there really was a snake, apparently the size of an anaconda, according to Tyler, and the poor wee fella went white as a ghost. He took his stance and played his first shot, advancing just a few feet further into the grass, when he took his stance again he could hear but not see the snake, this lead to him to abandon his ball, his clubs and head up the fairway... Not really knowing what to do. Luckily Bruce, the executive director of SAGA, was on hand to help out but the end result was a triple bogey for Tyler and pretty much the end of his chance to play the final two rounds.
Anyway two down but two still right in the mix, bring on round three. Right back to the braai (BBQ) to cook up snarlers and chicken kebabs, Blair is sorting the salad and corn on the cob!
Last day at the Ten Nations:So close! The guys showed some courage today, Blair lit it up early and got everyone excited. He got to eight under and at one point, with Tyler getting to five under and Josh and Vaughan around the two under mark, we were really gaining on the Aussies. At one point early in the back nine we did pull level but with three scores counting it see-sawed back and forward and was hard to really tell exactly where we stood. Unfortunately Blair's round went a bit cold and he ended up posting a six-under-par round of 66. A fantastic round and it did really set up our challenge. Tyler too was on fire, shooting four under and taking outright second on the individual leader board. Vaughan's supporting round of three under had us beat the Aussies fourth day total, but not by enough to pull ahead in the Ten Nations. We missed by one... The first thing the media liaison wanted to know was how disappointed I and the team were. Well, quite frankly we couldn't be any more excited by the day and while it hurts to lose neither I, nor the boys, were disappointed! They played with freedom and really had fun chasing down the leaders. It was great to watch them go for it and have fun doing so. 'Pathway One' all the way!