Semi Final Preview:
Otago (1st) v Chisholm Links (4th)
Perennial champions Otago once again have dominated the 2019 season going through round robin unbeaten. A 3-3 half with the dogged Chisholm side on the St Kilda links was the only blemish for the defending champs who ended the season 10 points clear of 2nd place Island Park. Meanwhile After a solid start to the season with home wins over Island Park, Taieri and a solid away win to St Clair, the beach boys couldn’t quite avoid a semi final clash to the top seeds dropping their last 3 games of the season.
As usual, the Balmacewen side stacked with Otago representatives continue to have a high-win percentages which has been a catalyst to their success year after year which includes 3 unbeaten key players in Brandon Hodgson, Ben Patston and Nick Borren. It remains to be seen whether the neutral venues for finals will help or hinder the defending champions for another Senior A pennant flag.
Unfortunately, the semis have come at the wrong time for Chisholm with Brent Butler and Jason Pegler out of the country which would’ve been a significant boost for the side. However guys like Matt Heaton and Mackenzie Gibson have shown enough to suggest they are more than competitive at this level. Taieri Lakes should set up nicely for the long hitting Gibson who’s match against Dylan Stock could easily be a toss of the coin and go the distance.
Key group – 5 and 6s
For Chisholm to be a factor in this match-up, it starts in the first group out on course and in Matt Heaton and Sean Geary, experience will be in their favour – if not age at least. These two epitomise what over 40s golf is all about – grinding and staying in the fight and that’s what they will have to do if the Balmac duo of Duncan Croudis and Patston give them a sniff.
However there must be concerns over the preparation with the English lefty renowned for hitting the course daily while Geary has only just returned from a back injury. Just like cricket, score board pressure is everything and with the links side missing Butler and form player Pegler, anything less than 1.5 games from the 5 and 6 could see Otago cruising into the final with ease.
Guest selector’s tips (winner in bold)
Otago v Chisholm
Dylan Stock v McKenzie Gibson
Callum Judkins v Justin Park
Brandon Hodgson v Mark Collie
Nick Borren v Kyle Geary
Ben Patston v Sean Geary
Duncan Croudis v Matt Heaton
Otago 5 Chisholm Links 1
Island Park (2nd) v St Clair (3rd)
The Battle of Blackhead enters stage 3 for 2019 albeit without the Blackhead Cup at stake being a semi final clash. St Clair retained the cup for the season, snaffling it off Island Park last month on the Waldronville course after the Park side looked set to finally get their names engraved for the first time winning the battle in round 1. These two teams have a unique record – both teams have struggled to defend their home course on numerous occasions therefore a neutral course matchup will give an idea as to who really are the Kings of Blackhead.
Both sides had a contrasting round robin – mainly due to the draw with Park sitting near the top of the table early before losing 3 in a row and struggling to get competitive line ups on the course. However a string of home games and a key win v Taieri away sealed a semi-final position and in the end 2nd spot with 2 rounds to play. St Clair on the other hand have battled all season barely keeping their heads above the wooden spoon position before gallant away wins to Park and Chisholm Links effectively ending Taieri’s chances of catching the top 4 and jumping into 3rd – avoiding the clash with Otago in the process. Both sides have mutual respect and will not be taking each other lightly.
It’s evident from the matchups, the Park side finally has their full-strength line up – only the 2nd time all season while St Clair have slowly gone away from an all youthful sextet, with former NZ rep Tony Giles and Chris Idour adding experience to the once whiskey-aged St Clair outfit.
Key grouping – 3s and 4s
This fixture could well be won in the middle with Mike Wray and Monty Wong taking on Giles and Connor Ross respectively. Depending on who gets the points between the 5 and 6’s, these boys could wrap up the fixture before the 1s and 2s are required. There’s no sugar coating it – From the outset, Island Park are looking to start strong sending out Michael Minty and Phil Bungard knowing they have the strong top pairing of Moxy Smith and Chris Snow to bring them home if needed. However, St Clair may have an advantage here with Giles at 3 while Wong and Ross have history where the ledger is an even keel. Wray has been unbeaten the last 3 games including a gritty half at Taieri v Mark Andrews so should be pumped for the matchup against one of Otago’s greatest provincial players to have donned the scotch thistle.
Guest selector’s tips (winner in bold)
Island Park v St Clair
Smith v Hancock
Snow v Crawford
Wray v Giles
Wong v Ross
Minty v Idour
Bungard v White
Island Park 4 St Clair 2