Golf: Auckland continues golfing dominance

Auckland has continued its dominance of the SBS Invitational tournament with its young team delivering an impressive wire-to-wire win at the Invercargill Golf Club yesterday.

The Blue and Whites, who began the week as the most successful team in the history of the SBS Invitational with 10 wins since the event began back in 1977, added title number 11 with a hard-fought eight stroke victory over 2012 champions Manawatu / Wanganui.

The Auckland team, who started the day on a nine under par team total of 567 after two rounds, finished on an eight under par team total of 1144 to win its third championship in the last four years at Otatara.

Auckland team manager Warren Leitch was proud of his young charges. They faulted in the third round with a four over par team total but came home strong with a three under par team total in the final round to secure the win.

"I am feeling a huge amount of relief that the guys got home," said Leitch, who was on his first visit to the tournament.

Manawatu Wanganui were valiant in their title defence - also carding a three under par team total 285 in round four - but they will rue their eight over par 296 in round two that was ultimately the difference.

Otago, led superbly by player of the tournament Brent McEwan, claimed a share of third place with host province Southland. Otago won the Founders Trophy for the low team total in the final two rounds.

But the main celebrations came from the Auckland camp who showed their class in a polished performance.

"I have a huge amount of pride in the young guys really," added Leitch. "The average age of our team was 19 so they handled it really well. They had a pass mark at the Toro in Dunedin in December and to go on to win the SBS is quite a feather in the cap for such a young side."

They were well led by New Zealand rep Sam An who had rounds of 70, 70, 69 and 69 to finish in second place on the individual leaderboard on a 10 under par total for the week.

The Titirangi golfer was well supported by his team-mates Tae Koh (69, 72, 75, 72) and Jonathan Ratcliffe (71, 72, 73, 73) who both finished inside the top 10 as they enjoyed revenge for last year's playoff loss.

"All five of the boys contributed. If you are led by someone who is 10 under par then you are going to function. Everyone contributed and three out of four rounds we were under par as a team so that was a really pleasing effort."

Leitch believed the SBS plays an important role in developing team golf among our leading amateurs.

"The event is magnificent and well run by Otatara and NZ Golf. It was a sensational event with many of the best amateurs in the country here. There could not be a better course for an event like this than this one."

Also smiling at the end of the tournament was Otago No1 McEwan who claimed his first national title when he won the individual trophy ahead of An by three shots.

"I played really solid and gave myself a number of opportunities to make birdie and luckily enough it was one of those rounds where every time I got into trouble I managed to get out of it," said the St Clair golfer.

McEwan was humbled to add his name to the SBS individual trophy that includes the likes of Gareth Paddison, Marcus Wheelhouse, Tim Wilkinson and Ryan Fox.

"I am stoked. I have been coming here for 15 years so to finally win a national event is an awesome feeling. Our team is a great bunch of guys. I was pleased I could help them out and I am just stoked with this week."

The leading amateurs in the field will now begin their preparations for the next national event - the New Zealand Stroke Play Championship at Paraparaumu Beach from March 21-24.