Golf: Otago pro plotting Waikato win

Former Balmacewen professional and now Waikato coach Simon Thomas passes on some local knowledge to Waikato debutante Nick Coxon at Balmacewen yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Former Balmacewen professional and now Waikato coach Simon Thomas passes on some local knowledge to Waikato debutante Nick Coxon at Balmacewen yesterday. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

Former Otago Golf Club professional Simon Thomas is back on his old stomping ground and hoping to coach Waikato to glory at the interprovincial championships at Balmacewen this week.

The 47-year-old left Dunedin seven years ago to take up the position of head coach at the golf academy at St Peter's School in Cambridge.

Thomas grew up in Dunedin and misses the city.

But sentiment is not about to get in the way of his job.

He is here to help guide the young Waikato team and is hopeful his side will be in the mix when the title is decided.

''I miss this place big time. I miss the people but I've got a fantastic work environment and I get to work with these guys,'' he said, gesturing towards his team.

Thomas spent 13 years as the professional at Balmacewen and all that local knowledge is bound to come in handy this week.

The course, though, has changed and for the better, he said.

''It has evolved. It just keeps getting better. Some of the natives they planted 10 years ago when I was here have really taken hold and it is looking fantastic.''

Thomas is highly regarded by his peers as a superb technical coach.

One of his career highlights is coaching Otago professional Mahal Pearce, the last Kiwi to win the New Zealand Open (2003), and he has also coached New Zealand age-group teams.

Waikato made a good start to the tournament on Tuesday, beating Hawkes Bay 4-1 and Taranaki 4-1.

Yesterday, Waikato had the bye and then was beaten 3.5 to 1.5 by defending champion Southland.
Thomas' team ranges in age from 16 to 25 with an average age of ''about 18''.

The aim is to be in contention at the weekend.