For the second successive year, Darae Chung from Chilton St James School in Lower Hutt won the Supreme Girls Sports Award at the College Sport Wellington SPOTYS. The awards were held online in November 2021 and we caught up with Darae afterwards.
Darae Chung will spend next year overseas playing the sport she loves.
“I have graduated school one year early and I plan to spend all year playing amateur golf,” said the recently crowned two-time College Sport Wellington Girls Sportsperson of the Year.
Darae has just completed year 12 at Chilton St James School but will leave Lower Hutt and her home golf course Shandon for overseas to play as much competitive golf as she can throughout 2022. “I will look to play in the United States, Australia and South Korea.”
“There are a lot of tournaments that you can play within those countries, they all have a lot of good junior and amateur golf tournaments – you could probably play one every week.”
The general plan – renewed Covid-19 restrictions aside – is for her to head to Australia in January, on to the USA from April-September and then on to South Korea, the country of her heritage, for the rest of the year.
Darae has been playing elite level golf for several years and has played overseas previously, but not recently, having to miss several major tournaments overseas such as the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship in Abu Dhabi that is being staged now in mid-November.
“I haven’t been able to travel for the past two years because of Covid, but I have been able to play some tournaments nationally like the New Zealand Strokeplay and on the Charles Tour [New Zealand-based professional tour].”
She also plays locally, for the Wellington inter-provincial team, and inter-club for Shandon every summer. “But I practice every day and play about four rounds a week at either Shandon, Boulcott or Royal Wellington.”
To date, Darae rates Gulf Harbour just north of Auckland as her favourite course.
“It’s a beautiful course with the best ocean views and it’s also really difficult and challenging, especially when the wind picks up.”
What about her most memorable round of golf?
“That’s probably at Millbrook when I shot a seven under 65 in my second round at the New Zealand age-group championships in 2019, and I went on to win.”
Is there a stand-out shot she’s played in a tournament or in competition?
“One great memory was when I played in the ANNIKA Foundation Tournament at Royal Wellington. On the 14th hole I drove the green, which was 270 metres, in front of Annika Sörenstam herself [72 career LPGA victories] and a lot of other coaches and people.”
Does she have a favourite club in her bag?
“No, I don’t have a favourite club, I love all of them. The reason for that is I think you need to play every club as good as the other!”
Who are the players she admires?
“I follow and admire quite a few players, but if I had to choose one it would be Annika Sörenstam, just for her influence on the game and the career she has had. But also for her mindset. She is goal-driven and has an ambition to keep improving every year, and I think that is an admirable trait to have.”
Darae’s coach is Matthew Lane, who won the New Zealand Open in 1998. She doesn’t have a caddy per se, her mum and dad can often be found doing that job.
Playing on the LPGA Tour is Darae’s goal. What will it take for her to reach that level to be able to tee it up with players like Annika and Lydia Ko?
“It is all about belief and balance.
“In order to be the best in the world you have to believe that you are better than the person next to you.
You also have to put in the hard work and keep wanting to get better. While you are practicing you have to constantly challenge yourself, test yourself, make yourself uncomfortable and ask for help, and keep on doing that.”
“Even if you get on the LPGA that is not the end goal; even if you win that is not the end goal, if you smash records that is still not the end. You have to keep trying to improve.”
But no amount of work will get you to the top if you don’t enjoy it – so that is the main thing!”
Last, what advice does two-time College Sport Wellington Girls Sportsperson of the Year have for young up and coming sportspeople?
“I feel like if anyone wanted to pursue a career in any sport the thing to do is to be driven, love it and go out and do it."
“I’ve been in contention to win a few times, but lost my routine. There’s been some important learnings since the Junior British Open,” Jayden Ford concedes when reflecting on his form in the past 14 months.
In July 2018, Ford was third at one of the world’s most prestigious junior events at St Andrew’s, Scotland.
What followed was a slight dip in form.
“I was second in a tournament in Auckland over Anniversary weekend. I could have won in the Waikato too, but I started thinking of the high position. At the Open, I didn’t expect to finish as high as I did. Not overthinking was key in my success,” Ford reveals.
New surroundings often provide a chance to clear the head and an Asia-Pacfic team’s event at the Hakone Country Club near Mount Fuji, Japan provided further learning.
In an event featuring 40 countries, New Zealand was 13th.
“It was supposed to be a three round tournament, but a massive cyclone made it two rounds. At altitude the ball travels further which was a challenge. We played quite well against tough opposition.” Ford reflects.
Re-energized, Ford won the recent 54-hole New Zealand Under-17 championship in Cromwell and finish second in the Under 19 field.
Ford won the Under 17 division by four shots while a bogey on the second playoff hole of the Under 19 section against Southland’s Liam Stewart cost him victory.
Ford finished two under par in the whole tournament, one of only half a dozen players in the field of 100 to do so.
“It was a good weekend because my focus wasn’t all results based. I had a few things I wanted to work on and was really happy with the way they went. I made a mistake on the playoff hole, but that’s golf. Liam deserved his win. He’s a great player,” Ford reflected.
Ford’s triumph wasn’t the only positive for Wellington golf recently. Chilton St James were fourth at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Championships on September 2nd in the Cromwell cold.
Additionally Darae Chung won the New Zealand Age Group Championship at Millbrook Resort, Arrowtown. Chung shot -10 in winning her maiden national title by a single stroke. He scores in each round were: 69 (-3), 65 (-7) and 72 (even).
The next major event for Wellington’s leading juniors is the Inter-provincial Championships in Cambridge starting on September 30.
Jayden Ford’s golf clubs were sitting idle at Glasgow airport for two days - somehow lost in transit from London.
Hardly ideal preparation for competing in the Junior Open Championship, an event featuring 142 players from 78 different countries.
Ironically Ford shot a better round with burrowed clubs than he did with his own.
“I shot one-under in round one and even par in round two,” Ford explains.
“That was pretty funny I guess, but there was no way I was using other clubs for the whole tournament,” he insists.
Entering the third and final round at Eden, St Andrew’s, Ford was eight shots from the lead.
With the familiar feel of his own equipment he suddenly caught fire, shooting -4 in his last 12 holes to rapidly surge up the leaderboard.
“It was true full-length golf, unlike anything I've played before. The wind was similar to Wellington, but I really enjoyed the challenge of the links,” Ford enthuses.
The fast-finishing 14-year old ended in third place, the best result ever achieved by a Kiwi at the biannual Under-16 event. Ford was only two strokes shy of eventual winner, South African Martin Vorster.
“I was pretty happy with the result. Martin is two years older than me and he’s a really good player and a nice guy, deeply religious which is pretty cool,” Ford reveals.
The most notable winner of the Junior Open is American Patrick Reed who won the US Masters this year. Former world number ones Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth were also competitors.
Ford started playing golf when he was four years old, aborting rugby and football five years ago to fully concentrate on the sport.
Ford emerged from the same Titahi Bay club as US Open champion Michael Campbell, and made his name when he finished third against the country's best players as a 12-year-old in qualifying for the New Zealand Amateur at Royal Wellington in 2016.
Last year he made Wellington's senior representative team.
Ford has had coaching lessons with Campbell, who these days runs a Golf Academy in Spain, but Campbell is far from the most famous player Ford has met.
“I met Jordan Spieth at the presentation of the Open. It didn’t last long and I was a little bit stunned when he showed by I managed to get a selfie which is pretty cool.”
Jayden's regular coach is Dean Kingsbeer. Ford devotes about 30 hours a week to golf.
Jayden, from St Patrick’s College Silverstream, Wellington, is the son of former Black Ferns rugby international and Porirua City Councillor Izzy Ford.
The next major event on Ford’s calendar is the New Zealand Under-19 championship in the Manawatu in September.
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Prior to this year, the last time Christchurch Boys’ High School had qualified for the National Secondary Schools golf championship was in 1999 when y2k was deemed a very real threat and none of the present team was born.
Last week at the Hawke’s Bay Golf Club, Christchurch made up for lost time by capturing the title for the first time.
In the 36-hole tournament, Christchurch beat local rivals and defending champions Burnside High School by eight shots. Christchurch’s efforts were spearheaded by Tom Parker who won the individual crown, finishing three shots ahead of teammate Ben Baker. Parker fired the round of the tournament with a 66, recovering from a slow start.
“To shoot 66 was pretty awesome. I was grinding for the first five holes, but managed to make a few nice up and downs which put me at one under before I started making some putts,” Parker reflects.
“We expected a tough contest. Burnside was probably the favourites because they won last year and had mostly the same team. Ben played some great golf to and finished second. To have the top two individual players went a long way towards winning the title.” Parker continued.
It’s been an all-conquering season for Christchurch. In addition to winning Nationals, Christchurch won all four of their annual interschool exchanges against Auckland Grammar School, Westlake Boys’ High School, Otago Boys’ High School and Timaru Boys’ High School.
Parker is accustomed to playing big events. Last year he was one of three of Canterbury's most promising young golfers and won the right to travel to China for the Faldo Series Asia Grand Final in Shenzhen. Additionally Parker has travelled to Hong Kong and New Caledonia where he won the South Pacific Junior Open by seven shots.
“Playing overseas was an awesome experience. The heat was a challenge as was the different nature and grass of the courses. I learned a lot and am keen for more travel,” Parker enthused.
In July 2018, Parker will satisfy his desire for further travel and head the US on a golf scholarship at the University of Oregon. Oregon was second in the National championships this year and won the title in 2016 making it one of the top collegiate programs in the world.
Parker is a prefect at Boys’ High and receives extra fitness coaching from John Wilson who works closely with shot put world champion Tom Walsh.
Liam Finlayson seemed preordained for success in golf. He lives next door to the Feilding Golf Club where his father is the club professional.
Liam first held a club when he was three and played nine holes aged five. Presently he spends between 20 and 30 hours a week practicing and playing. He has reduced his handicap to two.
“I guess you could say I have been around golf all of my life. Dad has really encouraged me and I enjoy it. In golf there is nowhere to hide,” Finlayson says.
At the recent Super 8 tournament in New Plymouth, Palmerston North Boys’ High School was in danger of hiding into oblivion.
In the four-man, three round, tourney, Palmerston North trailed hosts New Plymouth Boys’ High School by four shots. A link course is susceptible to harsh winds, but Finlayson says conditions were claim heading into the final round.
“It was a fairly normal course with regulation greens. The wind blows in off the sea, but it wasn’t too bad. Everybody had to dig in and be consistent if we were to have a chance.”
Palmerston North remained steady. Across the three rounds Palmerston North shoot, 225, 226 and 226. New Plymouth dived in the final round amassing 250. That score promoted Napier Boys’ High School to second and saw New Plymouth regulated 20 shots behind the winners.
“It’s always a bit nervous relying on other players to perform, but you have to have faith and play your best,” Finlayson says.
Finlayson was the best preformed individual at the event. He beat Napier’s Gabriel Whincop by one shot while teammate Greg Shaw was four shots further back.
“It was great to win the individual title. There are a lot of good players and it’s one of my best achievements at school”
Finlayson finished second in the open field at the Hastings Open and was involved in the Palmerston North team that finished 7th at Nationals last year.
The Year 13 students intents to keep working hard and desires a career as a professional one day.
View video here! College Sport Wellington held their Sports Persons of the Year awards last night, celebrating all that is positive in school sport in the Capital. If you have not seen or heard of the male recipient of the premier title in 2015... you will do in the future. Daniel Hillier has been profiled on College Sport Media before (read more here), but for now we will share the short clip of Daniel showing his silky skills that have been seen by over 8 million people online.
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