Sports correspondent & historian
A sizzling 11-under final round on Sunday, gave Auckland golf professional Tae Koh the 85th edition of the New Zealand PGA championship, played at Te Puke Golf Club over four days last week.
The return of the PGA to the Bay of Plenty after a 35 year absence, revived memories of the glory days of tournament, when hosted by the Mount Maunganui Golf Club from 1965 to the mid 1980’s.
The PGA Championship of the 1960's and 1970's at the Mount, ranked second in stature only to the New Zealand (Golf) Open and attracted many of the big names of the game worldwide.
Five time British Open winner Peter Thompson and fellow Australian and British Open winner Kel Nagle, were regular visitors to the Mount Maunganui event.
A who's who of the Kiwi professionals ranks of the time in Terry Kendall, John Lister, Bob Charles and Simon Owen, were joined by Greg Turner and Frank Nobilo in the 1980's, in having their name engraved on the PGA trophy.
That was then – this is now.
Top marks to New Zealand Golf for allocating the 2021 PGA to a small provincial town, after last year’s tournament was cancelled due to Covid-19 - with 11 out of 10 handed to the Te Puke Golf Club, who hosted an outstanding event that brought throngs of golf fans to the time-honoured tournament.
Free entry, which brought a solid crowd of spectators and Sky Sport Television coverage on the last two days, ensured that the event showcased the Te Puke Golf Club and the Western Bay region, to a large audience
Covid-19 restricted the field to New Zealand professional and amateur players, and several Australians, who took advantage of the Trans-Tasman bubble to join their kiwi counterparts.
Koh started the day in fifth place, before he fired a red-hot 61 which included seven birdies and two eagles, to lift aloft the PGA trophy in triumph.
The last day turned into a three-way fight between Koh, Ryan Fox and Josh Geary. At the half way stage of the final day, Koh led the field at 17 under, courtesy of firing five-under in his first nine holes.
Geary came back with an eagle on the tenth hole to pinch the lead, with Fox and Koh in close attendance.
Koh then posted two successive birdies to regain the top spot. Geary grabbed the lead again on the 15th hole, with Koh storming home with birdie, birdie, eagle to claim the big prize.
History will show that Tae Koh won the 2021 New Zealand PGA Championship. with a final tally of 265, from Josh Geary who finished with 266 after signing for a 65 on the final day.
New Zealand's top professional golfer Ryan Fox was a further shot back with Australian Blake Collyer in fourth place.
The Te Puke Golf Club, are to be commended for putting their hand up to host the professional tournament at short notice, in the difficult times we face with Covid-19.
An army of local volunteers, ensured that the course and facilities were in immaculate condition, with the Te Puke course well and truly on the radar for future big tournaments.