By Peter Owen
A NORMAL DAY FOR Tamatoa Stanfield begins at 5.30am with nine holes of solitary golf at Noosa Golf Club, followed by six hours of wedge and chipping practice, an hour or two on the driving range, then, if there’s time, another nine holes in the late afternoon.
Often his schedule needs to also include a stint of working in the pro shop, where he collects and maintains the golf carts and sometimes helps out behind the counter.
It’s a gruelling grind, to be sure, but that’s the sort of dedication it takes to slice your handicap from 36 to one in just four years, and cement your place as one of the game’s brightest young stars on the Sunshine Coast.
Tamatoa hadn’t picked up a club until his mum Kaia persuaded him to join a couple of his younger brothers at a kids’ clinic at Noosa a little over four years ago.
Before then, he had been a more than handy tennis player, taking part in regional tournaments and showing considerable promise.
“I dropped tennis after I started playing golf,” he said.
“But it was really hard for me in those early days. “I just couldn’t get the ball in the air.”
But with the encouragement of his coach Jimmy Douris, who found five second-hand golf clubs for him to use, Tamatoa put his head down and practiced. And practiced. And practiced.
“I worked really hard,” said Tamatoa, flashing the smile that’s never far from his face. “Once I got the hang of it, I found the more I practiced the better I got.”
In his first full year of golf, he took 10 shots off his handicap; in the second year another 10; then another five in the following year.
“That’s when it got really hard,” Tamatoa said. His response, of course, was to work even harder.
And it paid off.
Now established as one of Noosa’s premier players, he travelled to the Gold Coast earlier this year to play in the Southport Open, an elite amateur event. Then, earlier this month, he had a crack at qualifying for the Queensland Open at Pelican Waters.
He shot four-over-par 76 in pre-qualifying and missed out. Disappointed at the time at what he thought was a failure, Tamatoa now realises that his performance – a nervous five-over-par on the first nine, followed by one-under-par on the second – was pretty special for an inexperienced 18-year-old.
And, anyway, it gave him the opportunity to caddie for his coach Jimmy Douris in the state championship, where he learned some valuable lessons about playing top-class golf.
“It made me realise the importance of a good short game, of planning and preparation, and of never giving up on a hole,” he said. “It showed me where my game needed to be.”
Tamatoa, who is of Papua New Guinea heritage without ever having set foot in that country, is the eldest of six boys who live within a couple of hundred metres of Noosa Golf Club.
None of the brothers who accompanied Tamatoa to that long ago junior clinic stuck with golf.
“They reckon it’s boring,” Tamatoa said. “But I love it. I love the challenge; I love shaping shots.
“It’s a tough mental game, for sure, but sometimes I like to be in my zone, by myself, just playing golf.”
Like most promising young golfers, Tamatoa has ambitions about making a career out of the game – preferably as a touring tournament player but, if that doesn’t work out, somewhere in the industry.
He’ll concentrate this year on playing amateur events, including next month’s Sunshine Coast Open Amateur at Headland, and next year he’ll apply for a traineeship – perhaps even at Noosa Golf Club, where he’s already held in high regard by the professional team.
Cooroy salutes indigenous culture
Marc Bright, the outgoing former professional who champions the All Abilities Golf programme at Cooroy, has long respected and admired indigenous culture.
Indeed, he’s always included a healthy dose of Aboriginal education and nature studies into his weekly clinics for disabled golfers at Cooroy.
So it’s no surprise that Marc is the man behind the innovative All Abilities Golf Cultural Day at Cooroy from 10am to 1pm on Monday, April 12.
He’ll be joined by Aboriginal dancers and digeridoo artists, as well as Elder Uncle Allan Parson, who will discuss bush tucker and bush medicine. There’ll be a yarning circle and visitors will sample lemon myrtle cheesecake, made from the lemon myrtle trees growing on Cooroy golf course.
Golfers will get to show their skills at pitching, driving and putting. The cost is $20 and you can book by calling Marc Bright on 0402 447 317.
Suddenly golf is trendy
It’s official – more people are playing golf than ever before.
Rounds of golf played were up 15% last year – and that includes figures from Melbourne, where golf was banned for four months during the COVID-19 lockdown in that city.
“Young men are taking up the game in droves, and we are seeing pleasing increases in young women taking up the game,” said Golf Australia CEO James Sutherland.
Overall golf participation rates rose to 995,000 in 2019-2020, after falling to 917,000 in the year to June 2019, according to an AusPlay survey.
That puts golf ahead of tennis, surfing and netball among Australia’s 15 top activities, but behind yoga (1.36 million) and soccer (1.1 million). The top activity among adults in the year to June 2020 was walking (9.54 million).
‘‘COVID-19 has reminded people about the value of being outdoors and having fun,’’ Mr Sutherland said.
Kids are free at Noosa Springs
There’s never been a better time to take your kids to Noosa Springs.
During the current school holidays kids up to the age of 17 play free every day except Saturday, providing they’re accompanied by a green fee-paying adult.
And children aged 12 and under eat free at breakfast every day, and at dinner on Friday and Saturdays, just as long they’re with an adult and take their dinner between 5pm and 6pm.
Thursday, 25 March
Women’s stableford: A grade – Heather Alsop 34, Cynthia Duco 32; B grade – Evelyn Allan 28, Paula Jeffrey 27c/b; C grade – Christine Baker 30, Lynne Hancock 28.
Saturday, 27 March
Men’s stableford: A grade – Chris Wright 39c/b, Timothy Storrer 39c/b, Coman Reynolds 39c/b; B grade – Tim Dolan 39c/b, Michael O’Reilly 39, Pieter Kanters 37; C grade – Pete Ferguson 44, Brenden Motley 41, Ted Clark 38.
Wednesday, 24 March
Men’s stableford: Andrew Horner 40, John Chandler 39, John Tomic 38c/b; women’s stableford: Noi Pike 34c/b, Katrina Horner 34, Jill Wilson 30.
Thursday, 25 March
Men’s black tee stableford: Alan Holley 31, Michael O’Connor 30, Nick Palmer 29c/b.
Saturday, 27 March
Men’s stableford: Vince Green 42, Ross Cooke 39, Jim Williams 37; women’s stableford: Fran McLaughlin 39, Dana Angus 37, Tracey Carter 36.
Sunday, 28 March
Men’s Universal Property Sunday Series, stableford: Kye Chapple, 37c/b, Oliver Steele 37, Reon Weir 36; women’s: Margaret Bailey 32c/b, Cathy Gault 32, Jane Beith 31.
Saturday, 27 March
Men’s stableford: Div 1 – Mark Kelly 39, J. McKee 38; Div 2 – M. Loe 37, D. McEwan 34; Div 3 – L. Horn 34, D. Attrill 33; women’s stableford: Sarah Brogden 34, Kate Sawrey 33.