Rarotonga Open champions, the Howard siblings Rotana (Open Women) and William Howard (Open men) have done it again, winning the 2023 Toa Group Rarotonga Golf Open on Saturday. MELINA ETCHES/23061208
Golfing champions, brother and sister William and Rotana Howard, have retained their respective open men and women Rarotonga Golf Open titles after claiming the 2023 Toa Group sponsored tournament – a World Amateur Golf Ranking event – on Saturday.
For younger sibling Rotana, Saturday’s win may be her
10th consecutive Rarotonga Open title and 11 in total.
She said her scores this year were possibly her best
in the annual tournament played at Nikao Golf Course.
“It has been pretty hectic,” Rotana said. “The number
of overseas players added profile to the tournament, which also inspired some
awesome golf being played by our very own local based players. It was awesome
to watch, be a part of, and hopefully we will get more overseas players down in
William said he cannot specifically recall how many
Raro Open titles he has won. However, he said, “my sister, she seems to win
pretty much more times, it’s always good to win with her though.”
On day two (Friday) of the tournament, William had a
stroke lead over Pieter Zwart, a visiting professional golfer (PGA) from
Aotearoa New Zealand.
“My strategy that day was just to keep it a play and
take opportunities but not so much as to push anything. Just to keep it simple,
pretty much a simple game plan, keep the ball in play and take the
opportunities when they come.”
On day one, William and visiting Zwart of the Waitangi
Golf Club in the Bay of Islands led the men’s open with both carding 4 under 63
with 67 being the next closest score.
On Friday, William shot 7 under 60 with Zwart on 61
and Leonard (Leo) Roa carding an awesome 62.
On the final day on Saturday, William, Zwart, Roa,
Trey Shedlock and Daniel Webb were battling for the top three places with Jojo
Karati, James Herman, Cruise Wawatai, Sam Marsters and Kristopher (Kris)
Williamson chasing the top five.
In the final round, William shot par 67 for a total of
190 for 54 holes – 11 under par in total – to hold out a two-stroke lead from
Zwart, who couldn’t take home prizes in the amateur tournament because of his
professional status. Roa with a total of 196 – five under par – finished second
followed by Kris Williamson who managed the best round on Saturday with 61
gross total – 6 under par.
In the women’s open, Rotana led from day one with one
over 68, extending lead on day two with 67 par round and two over 69 on
Saturday for a total winning score of 204 – 17 strokes from second placed,
young Koputai Cecil of Aitutaki. Veteran golfer Carolyn Cressy from Omaha Golf
Club finished third followed by Memory Akama and heavily pregnant Katey Karati in
William said his win still hasn’t sunk in yet, “the
main aim for me was to put myself against Pieter and see how I could go and if
I could put up with the challenge.”
“It was a pleasure to have the NZ guys over, and there
were a few who I’ve played alongside before. It’s actually good that they did
come down, it added that extra pressure for us here,” he said with the national
team preparing for the Asia Pacific in Melbourne, Australia in October and the upcoming
Pacific Games in November.
William is taking a week off then will kick back into
training mode and prepping.
He hits the green on his own to practice, but, his dad
(Ned Howard) is always there to keep an eye on things.
“I work on what I feel where I’m not quite right at
that moment, I work around my whole game. At times I work on certain aspects, and
I simplify things.”
His advice to upcoming golfers would be: “Put in the
effort, and the main thing is focusing on your own game and not getting
sidetracked by others or trying to play like other people, stick to how you started,
build on that and keep the game simple.”
“Nowadays everyone is trying to get the right
technique in hitting but no one swings it perfect, so you have your own way,
just have to work on it.”
The Howard siblings were raised in a golfing family.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve just always enjoyed it.
The best part I like about golf is you don’t have anyone to blame, you’re your
own mistake and if something goes wrong it’s on you, you can’t blame anyone
Stuart Henry, president of Rarotonga Golf Club, said
this year saw the largest field of golfers – 143 in total across four men and four
women divisions, hit the green over three days last week.
Forty-two visiting golfers from Aotearoa New Zealand
flew over for the competition from 14 clubs: from way up the North Island, South
Island - Waikaka, Arrow Town and Lake Hawea. The tournament also had 10 sister
club members from the Aitutaki Golf Club.
Henry said, the weather was almost perfect all week
apart from Friday morning showers.
“The greens were in top condition thanks to Sonny and
Jojo Karati’s preparation over the past two months.”
On behalf of the Rarotonga Golf Club, Henry would like
to extend their appreciation and “meitaki atupaka” to major sponsor TOA Group –
Brett Porter and Jana Jensen; supporting sponsors The Edgewater Resort &
Spa, The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Lagoonarium, Computer Man, Prime Foods
The Rarotonga Golf members and visitors were spoilt
with prizes that totalled in excess of $8000. Prize winners were given the
option to choose from a great range of TOA Gas, Ride Rarotonga and Rarotonga
Laundromat products, said Henry. There were also 60 sweep prizes, 28 nearest to
pin and long drives and 25 major overall prizes.
“Meitaki atupaka to all the players and a special
mention to our Kiwi friends who we trust you all enjoyed the hospitality of our
Rarotonga Golf Club.
“Thank you once again all our sponsors and Brett
Porter for confirming major sponsorship for 2024.”
Open Men results: 1st William Howard 63, 60,
67, 190; 2nd Leonard Roa 68,
62, 66, 196; 3rd Kristopher Williamson 70, 70, 61, 201; 4th
Jojo Karati 67, 72, 65, 204; 5th Trey Shedlock 67, 66, 72, 205.
There was a very close battle in the Intermediate Women’s
with only one stroke separating winner Alice Mitchell from Kelly Mackenzie visiting
from Arrow Town down the South Island and Ake Unuka in third place.
Intermediate Women results: Alice Mitchell 78, 77, 83,
238; 2nd Kelly Mackenzie 84, 76, 79, 239; 3rd Ake Unuka 77,
83, 80, 240 .
In the Junior Men’s, Nooroa Maui was amazed with his
round one 73 in the Juniors, he crashed in round two but managed to card an 81
final round to comfortably take out first place ahead of Gas Heather and Ed Nicholas,
visitor John McDevitt 4th place.
Junior Men results: 1st Nooroa Maui 73, 90,
81, 244; 2nd Augustine Heather 84, 79, 88, 251; 3rd Edward Nicholas 84, 87, 81, 252; 3CBJohn McDevitt 85, 82, 85, 252.
In the Junior Women’s Janna Jansen (major sponsor) was
cleaning up the Juniors with personal best rounds day one of 85 and on day 3 an
84 gross 10 shots away from 2nd place Jane Moananu great golfing, and from
Aitutaki Emma Tangaroa in 3rd place.
Junior Women results: 1st Janna Jansen 85, 90,
84, 259; 2nd Jane Moananu 91, 85, 93, 269; 3rd Emma
Tangaroa 95, 94, 87, 276.
Veteran Men on Nett: Katoa Banaba Snr 68 + 66 +
63 = 197; Chris Hansen 73+60+67 = 200; Ra Urirau 67 + 73 + 65 = 205;
Count Back from Sir Tom Marsters 70+67+68 = 205.
Veteran Women on Nett: Patsy Hockin 67 + 70 +67 = 204;
Monica McMillian 65 +66 + 75 = 206; Lady Tuaine Marsters 75 +66 + 71 = 212.