The 2023 edition of the NZ Freyberg Masters was played last week at the Poverty Bay Golf Club in Gisborne. The Canterbury team featured a familiar lineup with just one addition to the squad in Andrew Green who was selected to play at the number 1 spot. Andrew Dufton, who a year earlier attended as the reserve played his way back into the starting 5 to play alongside Woo Bong Kim (2), Aaron Forsyth (3), and James Howard (4) as well as the experienced Jason Sincock (reserve.)
With a third-place finish 12 months earlier at Motueka hopes were high for the men to produce a similar standard performance although there was a level of uncertainty with the Poverty Bay course that very few had played previously. Canterbury was drawn to have the opening round BYE which isn’t always ideal in terms of denying the team a mid-tournament break but did mean they avoided the morning rain on the first day of the event. In the afternoon they came up against Hawkes Bay for their opening match, unfortunately, the team narrowly lost out 2-3 with Dufton and Forsyth getting the two wins for the team.
With the opening day behind them they went into day 2 hoping to get themselves on the board. Their morning match saw them come up against a strong Bay of Plenty side that had won both their day 1 matches. As expected this was another tough encounter, one which the Bay of Plenty won out 3.5-1.5. The top of the order was unable to get a point between them but James Howard was able to secure the only team win 2/1 alongside Dufton’s A/S result. Next up we faced hosts Tairawhiti who had a slow start to the week on their home course. The Cantabs were able to get their first win of the week taking a 4-1 victory, Andrew Green and Woo Bong Kim managing their first wins of the week 3/1 and 8/6 respectively. Howard and Dufton also had solid wins at the 4 and 5 spots.
Following their first win the men looked to try and build some momentum going into the one round Wednesday where they faced Tasman who had some tight contest of their own in the opening rounds. It was the top of the south team unfortunately for Canterbury however that came out on top in this one 3-2. James Howard was able to keep his winning run going winning 1up while Andrew Green also prevailed at the number one spot.
Onto the Thursday we went with the knowledge that some positive results were required to pull the men up the table, and the team was able to deliver. In their first match they played Manawatu/Wanganui, who had enjoyed a positive run of results until that point, however, Canterbury produced their performance of the week until that point winning 4-1. Green, Forsyth, and Howard all won 3/2 with Dufton winning 2/1. Next up we faced familiar neighbors Aorangi who had started the tournament well, another solid performance from Canterbury saw them win that one 4.5-0.5 in a one-sided affair. Jason Sincock came into the lineup for this match and was able to win 1up with Andrew Dufton enjoying the biggest victory 5/4 after being promoted to the number 4 spot.
Those two wins on day 4 left the team with a 3-win, 3-loss record going into the final day where they hoped to make up some ground on the table toppers. In round 8 they faced defending champions Wellington who were looking to make it a 3-peat of victories at this event. In an expectantly hard match, Canterbury unfortunately went down 3-2. Forsyth returned to the lineup to win convincingly 5/4 with James Howard enjoying his 6 successive victory winning 1up. In the last game, Canterbury took on Waikato who had a mixed week of results which saw them sit just below us on the table. Fortunately, we were able to finish the week on a positive prevailing over the Waikato men 3.5-1.5. Sincock returned to the lineup at halved his match at number 5 while the top 3 all had wins including Howard once more.
At the end of the week, Canterbury finished with a 4 win, 4 loss record which left them in 7th place out of 15 teams, having played 5 of the 6 teams above them. The standout performance of the week came from James Howard who after losing his first match won his next 7 matches to have the equal tournament best record alongside 3 other players from the 75-strong field of players in the event. Andrew Green was also commendable winning 5 of his 8 matches at the number 1 spot. Auckland went on to win the event after pipping Bay of Plenty in the final round.
Full results from the week can be viewed – HERE.