Young gun shoots for big-time

Top talent: Noah Novacek

A rising star of Queenstown’s golf scene is getting the chance to perform on the world stage.

Noah Novacek, who’s nine, swept the Auckland series of US Kids Golf tournaments for his age group, winning seven of eight tournaments, earning him entry to the world junior champs in the United States in August.

Two thousand kids from around the world are expected to play.

The tournament’s being held at the Pinehurst course in North Carolina – where Kiwi pro Michael Campbell won the US Open in 2005. Noah, who attends KingsView School, is buzzing.

“People from all over the world coming to this tournament because it’s the world champs – if you’re an adult it’s like the Masters.”

His aim? “Becoming the top five in the world for my age group.”

Dad Shane Wairau says Noah, who hits a local course almost every day, abandoned skiing last winter to continue golfing.

In May he was part of the victorious New Zealand Trans Tasman Cup team which played in Sydney and he ended up winning the under-nine New South Wales state champs.

Regularly playing local club day comps has improved his game immeasurably.

Since December, his handicap has dropped from 36 to 19.

He regularly breaks 100 on full-size courses, like Queenstown Golf Club’s Kelvin Heights course.

Wairau: “He’s competing against men and adults on full men’s courses, so when he gets to those courses in Auckland he can just chew them up.

“Everything he got, he earned. There’s no generosity in golf – you have to get the ball in the hole and you’ve got to do it yourself.”

Wakatipu Junior Golf Club coordinator Simon Boland says Noah’s not overawed by spending five hours competing with people who can be 60 years older.

“He’s very mature for his age, not just his golfing ability but his whole golfing intellect and his demeanour.”

Boland adds: “He seems pretty focused and he just loves it.”

Wairau puts his son’s success down to athletic ability and focus.

“To be out playing in a Saturday tournament with men for five hours, and still be as tuned in to the last shot as you were for the first shot – most people waver during that time. His focus is really strong, that’s what keeps him in the game.

“He’s had that since he was a little kid. I remember trying to drag him away from Lego and he wouldn’t want to leave until he’d finished.”

Noah’s again qualified for a NZ kids’ team which plays Australia in May.

And the local US Kids Golf tour win gained Noah entry to other tournaments in Australia, Britain, Europe and regional events in the US.

But Wairau – the HR and safety manager for AJ Hackett Bungy – says he can’t play them all.

“Geez, I’d need more than a second job.”