Different strokes win over all the pro-am folks

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The air is still, the sun is there – but not unbearable – and the tournament is nicely poised for a tight finish. 

There’s a crush at the top of the leaderboard with a gaggle of golfers on 15 and 16-under while our own local hope Greg Turner, the ex-pro, is on 11-under and seriously in contention. 

After three days of near-perfect conditions across 54 holes, it’s come down to this – one final round shootout on a Sunday when it all gets decided and the crowd (hopefully) gets an enthralling fill of entertainment. 

Turner, teamed up with visiting Samsung chief executive JK Shin for the separate pro-am tournament that’s running simultaneously to the NZ PGA Championship, lines up a putt for birdie at the par-four third hole. 

It drops, the sizeable crowd following him cheers, and Turner gives an obligatory wave of acknowledgement as he plucks his ball from the hole and strides purposefully to the fourth tee block. 

By the time Turner casually drains a challenging seven to eight-metre putt for another birdie at the fifth, it’s getting quite exciting. 

The 50-year-old is now just three shots off the lead – and looking like a man in control and on the charge. 

All the while he dishes out encouragement to Shin. 

The heavyweight executive is hitting some wayward drives and chips but also pulling off a few startling recoveries too, leaving Turner murmuring approval and patting his playing partner heartily on the back. With Turner closing in, it’s becoming pure theatre, sport at its most meaningless and compelling best – can the man who gave away the game completely 10 years ago after a stellar 25-year career reclaim the title he won back in 1984? 

As the Turner Show continues, a friend making a day of it – who we shall call Casual Observer – appears to be thoroughly enjoying herself despite previously having no clue who Turner is. 

And sorry Sir Ian Botham, but even though she’s English, Casual Observer somehow has no idea who you are either. 

Despite this serious lack of knowledge, Casual Observer is here and happily following the play in what is essentially Sir Michael Hill’s sculpture-filled backyard, all adding to the attraction. 

Later she spends a bit of time at the 15th party hole before finishing at the 18th as the final playing group with event winner and defending champion Michael Hendry come through 

It just goes to show how much general appeal such an event can create – and it’s gathering steam. 

Whether you knew what was going on or not, it was exciting – and the event’s future is exciting. 

Not just because of the organisers’ ambition to be the greatest tournament in Asia Pacific. 

But here was someone with virtually no knowledge of who was playing, having a ball – Casual Observer told me after: “It was more fun than I expected and I think we did the right think picking someone to follow and watching their game … cool to see the sculptures and good value.” 

Typically, booze and the potential for crowd involvement won over others, with Casual Observer later saying: 

“The vibe from my other crew was golf became more interesting as they got drunker and had to dodge getting clipped around the head with balls as players teed off at the 18th.” 

Bring on next year.