For the fourth time in six years, Otago had to settle for runner-up after making another interprovincial final against Auckland on Saturday.
Auckland went through the week unbeaten, its only blemish being a half against Wellington in round seven.
Auckland was a deserved winner and ended its 25-year interprovincial drought, walloping the southerners 5-0.
Reserve Jack Turner was thrown in the deep end in Saturday morning’s semifinal against North Harbour.
He was brought in for captain Brandon Hodgson, who made a planned exit to a wedding.
Despite trailing 3-2 at the turn, Otago rallied with Jonny Mackay, playing at No2, putting Otago on the board first.
Being in command throughout the match, he beat Kevin Koong with four holes to spare.
Sungwoo Han moved into No4 and gradually gained momentum, overcoming a slow start to win 3/2 over Sung Jin Yeo, which set up a grandstand finish.
With Inia Logan and Ben Patston behind in their respective matches and later unable to add to the tally, the focus turned to the travelling reserve at No5.
Turner, son of Otago professional Greg, turned a two-down deficit after nine holes into a one-up lead with three to play.
He put the nail in the coffin of unbeaten North Harbour with a 2/1 win over Nathan Mayes.
Otago was in its sixth final since 1981 and the odds of breaking the drought looked promising early.
Turner, Mackay and Logan led early, while Patston and Han found themselves battling.
But at the turn, Auckland shot a barrage of birdies with four of the five players all under par and applying pressure to the Otago players.
What had been a big week for Patston ended emphatically as he went down 5/4 to Auckland’s morning hero Tynan.
Despite two losses on finals day, five wins and a half was a stellar week for Patston.
At the turn, Turner and Logan provided some hope, both two-up, but three birdies in a row from Turner’s opposite, Josh Leitch, was a game-changer, defeating the Arrowtown local one-up on the final hole.
When Mackay went down 3/2 against Jang Hyuan Lee, Otago’s fate was sealed, with Auckland unbeatable in other matches.
Mackay was the next best behind Patston with four wins, including the crucial semifinal win.
Han fought after being three down, losing on the last hole to Kunaal Singh, finishing the week with three wins and a half against some seasoned campaigners at No5.
Logan looked to be Otago’s best chance of snaring a result, being ahead for most of his match, but Jared Edwards rallied late and chipped in on the 17th for a 2/1 result.
It was a tough tournament in the death seat at No1 for Logan with three wins from eight matches.
Captain Brandon Hodgson could not quite record a 50% win rate but won when it mattered.
Auckland’s Lee, unbeaten, was named player of the tournament.
Southland’s Matt Tautari joined Aorangi’s Daniel Perham as the one of the youngest players to join the 100 club at the age of 33.
– Michael Minty (Otago Daily Times)