Hawke’s Bay amateur Mako Thompson overcame the elements to become the Cambridge Classic men’s champion at the weekend.
Thompson prevailed with a don’t-argue, six-under 66 on the final day at the par-72 Cambridge Golf Club course to claim the 54-hole order of merit event which had been shorted by a round due to rain and squally wind on Sunday.
The 20-year-old Maraenui Golf Club member had carded four-under 68 last Friday to set the pace before falling to second place on Saturday after posting a one-over 73 to trail James Hydes, of North Shore, by three strokes in a daunting field of 118.
“The weather was very poor and it rained every day and it was windy so they took one round out on Sunday,” he said, revealing it was a challenge to play in such conditions when growing up in a relatively sheltered Hawke’s Bay over the years.
However, the +3 handicapper said the two-shot victory (207 in three rounds) over Hydes (69, 69, 71) was a culmination of toiling with Maraenui club professional Scott Overend in the past 18 months.
“It was really hard to develop that sort of game where you can play in the wind and rain — you know, low and controlling the ball flight and things like that.”
Thompson said apart from Napier the weather tended to be pretty average at many tourneys.
“Clubbing up” to take the spin off the ball with a much softer approach had worked wonders for him.
He also had put a check on his aggression in approaching the greens.
“My putting was really, really good,” he said. “I made 24 putts in 18 holes so that was really good but, I think, the biggest factor was [mates].”He and Hydes had flatted with mutual mates in a flat in Hamilton where they had engaged in some healthy banter to lighten up the texting times on the course.
Hawke’s Bay amateur golfer Mako Thompson is making the most of his time with the New Zealand Development team in honing his skills. Photo/Patrick Wong
Thompson had had a scorching start on Sunday with a par, birdied the second, eagled the third, before he had birdied the next three holes.
“It was almost the dream start so I just put it out there to put the heat on straight away and I managed to stay at six under before scoring a bogey at No 8 before just playing solid on the back nine to hole some really nice putts.
“So it helped to have a great start, you know, to get on the front foot and be really aggressive and that was nice.”
Thompson’s highest accolade before Sunday was when he was crowned the national under-19 men’s champion at the Hastings Golf Club in 2017, the first from the province in a long time.
“This field [Cambridge Classic] was really strong so this one will be sort of right up there for me,” he said.
The former Napier Boys’ High School pupil said a few of his friends who are studying on golfing scholarships at American universities also were in the field of the sixth tourney in the amateur New Zealand order of merit circuit at the weekend. Last year he had finished 15th in his second year of competing in the circuit but he is sitting in 11th position this year.
Early this year Thompson had made the five-man New Zealand Development team who had competed in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. He also relishes the national training sessions throughout the year for a muster who are seen as the next breed of Kiwi amateurs who have a chance of making the cull to the national academy.
“It was really awesome to make that team this year so in the next two to three years I just want to work really hard to make some key New Zealand events to get as much experience as I can as an amateur,” says the fulltime golfer who harbours a desire to turn professional when the time is right.
“Coach Scotty at Maraenui also has been huge because he’s put a lot of time and effort into me, which is incredibly amazing.”
Maraenui Golf Club professional Scott Overend has helped Mako Thompson in the past 18 months to try to master the art of playing in windy and wet conditions. Photo/file
His flirtation with the game came at 10 at the Te Pohue Golf Club where his father, the late Paul Thompson, was a member.
In his last year at Te Pohue, Mako Thompson had played against his solo-father, an eight handicapper, in the senior men’s club championship and lost as a 12-year-old.
“I was five up with seven holes to play and he beat me on the last hole,” he had told Hawke’s Bay Today of Paul, a back-to-back champion, who had died from throat cancer in July 2016.
The Eagle Golfing Society Inc branch here had named Mako Thompson and Adam Winter the joint Hawke’s Bay Young Golfer of the Year in 2017.
Thompson said it was great to have his brother, Morehu, 28, lug his bag in Cambridge at the weekend while mother Lucia braved the atrocious weather to watch him swing and dutifully replace his divots.
“I have an awesome family and so many good friends who take such an interest in what I’m doing so that really drives me knowing they are following me so intently so it’s a great support network.”
Their other brother, former Napier City Rovers footballer Marama, 29, lives with fiancée Letitia Cleary and runs his fibre optics business in Gold Coast. Cleary gave birth to twin daughters last week.
Thompson will make a timely visit to live with the couple when he competes in the Queensland Amateur Championship at Oxley GC in a fortnight.