From puck to putt

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Golf and ice hockey might seem worlds apart, but for a Canadian-based Queenstowner they’re not.

Kory Helowka recently finished his first season playing ice hockey for SkyCity Stampede.

But since soon after arriving in Queenstown, in late April, the 32-year-old’s also been a teaching pro at the Frankton Golf Centre.

Ice hockey brought him over, after he accepted an invite to play for the Stampede as an import.

He’d retired two years ago after a pro career that included eight years going back and forth between leagues in the United States and Europe.

Despite having been in a lot of locker rooms, Helowka describes his fellow Stampede players as “one of the best groups I’ve ever played with”.

The fact they lost the best-of-three finals series to West Auckland Admirals, after earlier topping the league, wasn’t due to any lack of effort, he says.

“We certainly didn’t play our ‘A’ game but we went to overtime in the first game and only lost the second 2-1 – we had a chance the whole time.”

As a youngster, Helowka says his grandfather first introduced him to golf, “but I hated it and never played it again till I was 19 or 20”.

That’s when he started playing with his hockey buddies who’d “destroy me on the golf course”.

“I’d have to hear about it every day so I would spend hours and hours and hours on the range, just because you can only take so much.”

Despite being self-taught, he gained his PGA card and has coached for the past three years.

“I just kind of fell into it but how can you have a better job?

“I get to go to a golf course to work every day.”

Helowka’s hoping to be selected again for the Stampede next season, and thinks he’ll be better for this year’s experience.

“The hardest part was adjusting to the rules – they’re a little bit different than in North America, so I ran into a little bit of penalty trouble.”