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The Howards reign supreme again

Tuesday 13 June 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Golf, Sports


The Howards reign supreme again
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 the future.”

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 fifth place.

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 else.”

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 and VONNIA’s.

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.

Open Women results: 1st Rotana Howard      68, 67, 69, 204; 2nd Koputai Cecil 71, 77, 73, 22; 3rd Carolyn Cressey 73, 74,  78, 225; Memory Akama 77, 75, 77, 229; 5th Katey Karati 75, 76, 79, 230.

The young Tahitoa Webb took out the Intermediate Open division beating many of the Senior Open Men.

Tahitoa is a much improved ‘student’ player - watch out members of the National squad, this young man will be replacing some of you very soon.

Intermediate Men results: 12 Tahitoa Webb 74, 73, 75, 222; 18 Katoa Banaba Jnr 84, 72, 75, 231; 19= Mata Tatakura 76, 80, 76, 232; 19= Tearoa Tini 77, 77, 78, 232.

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; 3CB  John 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.