Brothers to go into battle for Otago

 Otago No 2 Ryan Bellamy watches a putt slide past the hole during the Otago matchplay...
Otago No 2 Ryan Bellamy watches a putt slide past the hole during the Otago matchplay championship final at Balmacewen last month. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
There will be no lack of brotherly spirit in the Otago men’s team when it has another crack at an elusive New Zealand interprovincial title this week.

For the first time in half a century, the five-man Otago amateur team contains a set of siblings.

Ryan (27) and Jacob (22) Bellamy will each be playing in the tournament for the second time.

They are the first brothers to represent Otago in the five-man event since Joe and Francis Whittaker at Lochiel in 1971.

Ryan, who returns to the team for the first time since 2016, is at No 2, behind Otago No 1 Tom Lee, who will be making his national interprovincial debut at the Ashburton club.

Jacob Bellamy, who made his Otago debut last year, is at No 4, sandwiched between Callum Judkins, making his third tournament appearance, and Brandon Hodgson.

It is a seventh appearance in the five-man team for Hodgson, who has also previously attended as a reserve.

Hodgson is the only player with significant interprovincial experience but that seems unlikely to be a concern for a talented Otago team this week.

‘‘All our guys are more than capable at this level,’’ Otago manager Mahal Pearce said as the players had a practice round yesterday.

‘‘If you’re new, that doesn’t always mean you’re not experienced. These are our best players and they know how to win.’’

Otago opens with a match against Poverty Bay-East Coast this morning before a derby against Southland this afternoon.

A bye tomorrow morning is followed by an afternoon clash with Tasman, and Thursday brings the crunch match against defending champion Canterbury.

Otago completes the round robin stage with matches against Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay on Friday.

Auckland and North Harbour are missing, so all teams are in one group, instead of the usual two.

The top four will progress to semifinals and final on Saturday, and Pearce — who played in five interprovincials before a glittering professional career that included winning the New Zealand Open in 2003, and is now Golf Otago chief executive — is optimistic.

‘‘I think we’ve got a really good chance of making the finals.

‘‘It’s matchplay. Anyone can beat anyone on their day, and I think we’ve got a pretty good draw.

‘‘We’d like to see the boys get off to a good start - get out of the blocks early and keep the foot down, because it can be hard to come from behind.

‘‘So let’s hopefully have a good Tuesday and get the week going well.’’

The Ashburton course was in great shape, Pearce said.

‘‘It’s a course that should suit everyone. It’s pretty flat. You’ve got to be quite accurate around the greens because they slope off, but they’re in beautiful shape and running really nice.

‘‘There are not too many hidden surprises around the course. It’s pretty much as you see it, and I think it will be a good matchplay course.’’

Otago, which missed the semifinals last year, is seeking to break a long drought.

It has not won the New Zealand interprovincial since 1982, but has finished second four times in the past decade.

The women’s tournament is at the Timaru club next week.

hayden.meikle@odt.co.nz

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