Michael and I are truly blessed. ¬†Another day on cloud 9, and it‚??s hard to find the composure to write today‚??s blog. ¬†Apologies if you‚??re getting sick of our elated tone.
This morning we teed off at Wairakei ‚?? one of NZ‚??s top courses, in the Taupo region ‚?? with no less than Phil Tataurangi, and his mate Keith. ¬†I‚??m not kidding. ¬†The only thing that could in any way have tainted the day was the bad weather forecast coming to fruition. ¬†But the sun shone brightly. ¬†In short, the stars were aligned for a magic day. ¬†
Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by the South African (?) chap in the pro shop, and shown to the practice range. ¬†After hitting a few loose ones Mr Tataurangi turned up with Keith. ¬†When you meet people of Phil‚??s stature it‚??s sometimes not easy to crack the ice; the sense of occasion can stymie one‚??s chat. ¬†Thankfully however Phil is an absolute gentleman, and an easy going one at that. ¬†So we found ourselves instantly at ease, and enjoying Keith‚??s sharp banter too. ¬†A good start to the day.
Even when we reached the first tee the mood was calm, and each of us banged one down in (more or less) the right direction. ¬†At Wairakei the first really sets the tone: a raised tee looking over a beautifully manicured fairway peppered with bunkers. ¬†Picturesque, tranquil and exhilarating all at once. ¬†
The first few holes passed us by relatively quickly, particularly because we were zipping round in carts (a welcome break for weary legs). ¬†Michael and I were taking it all in; just enjoying one of life‚??s better days. ¬†The golf wasn‚??t bad (M:83/J:81, off the back tees) ‚?? we‚??ve both played better and worse ‚?? but on a stage like Wairakei it doesn‚??t matter either way. ¬†The course is set in rolling woodlands, and seems a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. ¬†You can‚??t help but be relaxed ‚?? even when you‚??re playing with one of New Zealand‚??s best golfers. ¬†Memorable holes on the front 9 include the 6th (another raised tee, overlooking a meandering fairway flanked by bush) and the 8th (a beautiful dogleg left that requires a straight tee shot (too much to ask for me) and a pinpoint approach over water to an hourglass shaped green). ¬†Like Kinloch the other day, there were no weak holes, and each presents new challenges. ¬†Prepared to be in awe of the greenkeepers‚?? work too ‚?? the place is immaculate.
Come the 10th, the haggle was sitting finely in the balance: Michael and Phil might have been 1 up on Keith and I, but there wasn‚??t much in it. ¬†That said, even though Keith was on my team he still felt it appropriate to sledge my strong draw ‚?? so the chat was coming from all angles. ¬†I gave it back though, and pointed out to him how few putts he was sinking. ¬†For a chap that has been club champion at Wairakei some 9 times or so, he should have been draining them more than he did (we heard he has been quite a golfer in his day; although I should say he can still hit a very good ball). ¬†And if he had rolled a couple in we might have won the match. ¬†Alas we lost 3&1. ¬†The more important match however was halved. ¬†Standing dormy 2 up on the 17th tee I was feeling pretty good, but Mike to his credit pulled through with a par/birdie finish. ¬†On the 18th he needed a 14 footer for birdie, after I had drained a 20 footer for par (one of a couple raking par saves, Mike will want me to point out). ¬†The rascal got it ‚?? good matchplay golf. ¬†And a fitting finish.
Wairakei was a true pleasure. ¬†The back 9 was as picturesque as the front, if not more so. ¬†Holes like the 14th ‚?? the signature hole, a long par 5 ‚?? are quite breathtaking. ¬†It may sound like we say this a lot, but I sincerely implore any golfer visiting this part of the world to play here. ¬†Serenity, tranquility, beauty ‚?? you get the picture. ¬†It was also a real privilege to watch Phil ping it round; quite enlightening to see how a top pro hits the golf ball. ¬†Pretty dam well as it turns out. ¬†But as I foreshadowed, the true highlight was spending time with these two gentlemen. ¬†Our project centres around golf, and it‚??s a real treat to play the courses we get to play. ¬†The people are what make it though, and today was no exception. ¬†
Keith was good enough to shout us lunch in the clubhouse, and my tasty steak pie went down a treat. ¬†A nice chap by the name of Richard also joined us on the deck. ¬†Mike and I are now in the local library punching the keys and checking our emails. ¬†Our good fortunate is continuing too ‚?? a couple of emails in particular have widened the smile even further, one of which is worth sharing with you. ¬†Next week we‚??ll be playing a round in Wellington with one of the chaps from Fat Freddy‚??s Drop! ¬†This just gets better and better.
Off now to Keith‚??s place for afternoon tea, then we‚??re hooking up with Phil again at his brother's pub/restaurant. ¬†All in a day‚??s work. ¬†Tomorrow we head to Gisborne, to play at Poverty Bay (which reportedly has the best greens in the country). ¬†
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