Phil’s Annual Birthday Golf tournament (also known as the Philsacks Invitational or Waikare Masters) is the only non-professional, full-amatuer, no golf skills required golf tournament to take place in the Waikato district of New Zealand each year. Scheduled on a single day around the 29th of December each year, it is the last golf most participants will play in the calendar year. For some participants it is the only golf they play each year.
Phil’s Annual Birthday Golf is held each year at the same location, Waikare Golf Club, a public course in the small town of Te Kauwhata in the North Island of New Zealand. Birthday Golf was first suggested in 2007 by Paul Metcalfe to his son as an excuse to get a round in and share some beers while attempting a stroke-play style competition.
The tournament has a number of traditions. Since 2011, a jacket with quite a striking and unique shade of off-green has been awarded to the champion who must make sure it is returned to the clubhouse the year after the date of their victory. In most instances, the off-green jacket is worn only for the celebrations during the evening immediately following the tournament. This ensures the jacket is then kept safe for 12 months until the next event.
It took 8 years for someone to win the off-green jacket for a 2nd time. That elusive “double” was broken by P. Metcalfe (jnr) in 2014.
It is common ettiequte that the winner of the previous year attends the following years tournament to defend the jacket and capitalise on their bragging rights. Winners from past tournaments beyond the immediate year are also expected to attend but both of these rules are not strictly enforced. Demonstrated in 2015 when P. Metcalfe (jnr) did not return to Waikare to defend the 2014 jacket due to complications in travel arrangements from the East Coast of the USA.
The par 4 18th hole is used to measure a longest drive competition each year and the par 3 9th hole is used to measure a closest to the pin challenge. The announcement of these winners precedes the winners jacket and trophy presentation at the end of the tournaments play.
1958 heralded the formal opening of Waikare golf club for permanent use. It is largely unchanged to this day.
Phil’s Annual Birthday Golf tournament will be played for the 10th time in 2016.
2007 – B. Read – 93
2008 – R. Grant – 98
2009 – P. Metcalfe (jnr) – 92
2010 – G. Oliver – 93
2011 – J. Clarke – 89
2012 – M. Wood – 83
2013 – J. Winders – 89
2014 – P. Metcalfe (jnr) – 88
2015 – P. Metcalfe (snr) – 92
2016 – TBD
2007: THE FIRST
The first ever Phil’s Annual Birthday Golf tournament was played on December 29th, 2007, setting up a tradition yet to be missed. Details are scarce on attendance and performance but we do know that Brendon Read, a skilful cricketer and all round sportsman from sunny Conifer Grove, took out the historic occasion by a fair amount of shots with an impressive round of 93.
2008: SUB-100 SLIP & SLIDE
The weather conditions during the 2nd annual B’day Golf in 2008 proved difficult for players and really challenged the non-professional skill levels amongst the contestants.
Those who were there recall the pouring rain and how conditions were far from superb. Some amazing aeronautics were performed in the player golf carts, with Jawdin Clarke nearly permanently injuring his competition, Mat Wood, as they screamed down the hill of the par 5 15th.
There was still one player who managed to keep his knickers dry and his scorecard under 100. Roy Grant, no stranger to high-level non-professional competition, held the reins in the torrential rain as he edged Phil Metcalfe at his own event by 2 shots, carding a well deserved 98.
2009: 3RD TIME LUCKY
Phil’s Annual Birthday Golf 2009 was highly anticipated and the year was especially memorable as the field of players jumped from 7 in 2008 to 13 in 2009, a record turnout.
Phil Metcalfe, the birthday boy himself, put the demons of his narrow loss the previous year to Roy Grant behind him and made the most of what some were now calling home-field advantage, winning comfortably with a round of 92.
2010: THE PLAYOFF
Phil’s Annual Birthday Golf 2010 was especially memorable as it ended in a tie after 18 holes in sunny Te Kauwhata. Grant Oliver would eventually avenge his 2009 bottom 3 result with a decisive victory over Jawdin Clarke in a playoff hole at Manukau Golf Course early January, 2011.
Oliver, participating in the event for the 4th time, was all square with Clarke on 93 as he finished the 18th at Waikare and it was decided that the winner would be decided in a playoff. Both players, far to intoxicated to head back out onto the course, decided that the play off could wait until another day.
Controversially, due to the close proximity of Grant Oliver’s home and his familiarity with the hole, the Par 4 3rd hole at Manukau Golf club was chosen as the deciding hole. Both players met here on a clear evening in early January to decide their fate.
Clarke put a huge drive OB to the left off the tee while Oliver put his drive middle of the fairway. Clarke’s 3rd shot (after the drop) was a smart 7 iron which landed on the green within 5 metres of the hole, putting all the pressure back on Oliver. That pressure was certainly felt as Oliver’s 2nd shot went wide to the right over the back of the green. Clarke, playing in his trademark Nike jandals, had the strut of a man who was back in with a chance as he heckled Oliver up the fairway as they approached the green.
Oliver responded cooly with a chip on to within 2 metres of the pin, putting all the pressure back on Clarke to sink his 5m putt for Par and potentially force another playoff hole. Clarke missed the par putt by a fraction which meant all Oliver needed to do was sink his fairly straight forward 2m effort for par. As the crowd held their breath and darkness decended, Oliver closed his eyes and tapped the ball towards the hole. Cries of “get in the hole!” could be heard from the gallery as the ball rolled slowly towards, and eventually in, for par. Oliver had done it.
2011: INTO THE 80’s
Phil’s Annual Birthday Golf 2011 was a highlights reel worthy of an ESPN Christmas Special DVD. Four players in the field shot under the 2010 winning score of 93 as birdies and par’s dropped left, right and center. Waikare Golf course hadn’t seen this much action since the Whangamarino Swamp flooded a little bit that one time.
There would only be one player to finish under 90 though – Jordan Clarke, the 2010 tournament runner-up who finished with an 89 to avenge his 2010 loss and take out the trophy for the 1st time!
2012: THE RECORD BREAKER
Phil’s Annual Birthday Golf 2012 saw records fall in all areas of the event. A stellar line up of 15 of New Zealand’s best non-professional players competed on the day and the 2011 B’day Golf course record of 89 was broken not once, but twice.
Jordan Clarke was determined be the first player to win back-to-back titles and after carding a very slick 88, one under his record-winning score from 2011, he entered the clubhouse early with the first group quietly confident he had it in the bag.
What Jordan and the rest of the field that day didn’t realise was how much Mat Wood wanted the title.
Countless coaching sessions, swing improvement DVD’s, new gear purchases, and general practice for 6 months leading up to the event meant that Mat Wood was able to smash the B’day Golf record by 5 shots and shoot a phenomenal score of 83.
The smile on his face couldn’t be wiped as he finished in the last group and joined the lads in the clubhouse for a very special jacket and trophy presentation.
1. Mat Wood – 83
2. Jordan Clarke – 88
3. Phil Metcalfe – 92
4. Scott Hotson – 96
5. Bryce Strong – 99 (Winner longest drive)
6. Jimmy Peckett – 100
7. Paul Metcalfe – 101
7. Grant Oliver – 101
9. Tim Long – 105
10. Cole Berthelsen – 106
11. Craig Lawrence – 109
12. Jayesh Makan – 114
13. Stephen Hooper – 119 (Winner closest to pin)
14. Johnny Lendrum – 125
15. Kyle Stutter – 131
2013: RELEASE THE KRAKEN
An abundance of talent from both ends of the scale featured in Phil’s Annual Birthday Golf 2013 and boy did sunny Te Kauwhata turn it on for those vying to get their hands on the coveted off-green champions blazer. With a few past champs and a handful of plucky rookies in the mix there was a real sense of electricity in the atmosphere.
Pre-tournament favourites were returning champ Mat “I’ve Got a Big” Wood along with fellow past champs Jawdin “I Like Big Putts and I Cannot Lie” Clarke and Phil “Fairway to Heaven” Metcalfe. Local stalwart Paul “Gandalf, Lord Of The Pins” Metcalfe was a real dark horse for the event posting several pre tournament scores in the lead up to the day which would have won the title in most previous years. Hamilton import Joel “The Shaft Bender” Winders was coming off a solid hockey season but the question was could he translate those respective skills into the synthesis of flair and composure required by the beautiful game?
Solid rounds were had by most with Metcalfe Snr hitting 97, dropping 4 strokes from the previous event showing glimpses of the form that had the journalists calling this his year.
At the tail end of the pack Lucas “Dr Hackenstein” Holmberg, playing his first ever round of golf, carded the cricket like score of 128 – however this did not break the record for worst round score of 134 held by Johnny “Jack Dicklaus” Lendrum from the 2010 edition. Jayesh “Señor Quattro-putt” Makan somehow got worse from his 2012 effort finally tap, tap, tapping in for 118. Blair “Dude, Where’s My Par” Robertson had a forgetful day on the links shooting 116, this Ashton Kutcher looking Chin Up champion leaves nothing to chance though with a no guts no glory attitude – it takes a lot of balls to play golf the way he does.
Two rookies to the event gained cult status from the crowd with their relaxed ‘take it easy’ approach to the game, which unfortunately didn’t reap the rewards they had hoped – Nick ‘Sand Baggin’ Hartnoll spent more time on the sand than when he was away at the beach for New Years the following week. Jordan “The Iron Whisperer” Mann had the crowd in raptures at every tee block with his unorthodox no driver approach. While entertaining neither competitor really had the game on the day to reach the podium, but both winding up with respectable rounds of 108 for Mann & 112 for Hartnoll.
Roy “Sultan of Swing” Grant (another former champ) belted a quality 98 to earn himself an early beer back in the clubhouse and the opportunity for a few selfies with loyal fans. This also allowed him to snare premium seating for the playoff hole between our birthday boy host Metcalfe Jnr and Jimmy “Sir Slicealot” Peckett.
Phil & Jimmy wrapped up their innings both situated on 99, and with tournament rules stating there to be no ties under the sub-clause – “No Ifs, No Buts, Just Sink Those Putts”, a playoff hole ensued. Back on the 18th tee Jimmy “Sir Silcealot” Peckett hit one of his few straight drives of the day, straight up the middle of the fairway passing the longest drive mark for the day. Unfortunately for him, playoff holes aren’t considered and he was left out of the running for those honours. Phil “Fairway To Heaven” Metcalfe hit a long but disastrous ball from the tee, slicing right of the fairway onto the practice driving range. Both players second shots fell short of the green, with Metcalfe Jnr having to navigate his way back towards the action zone. Metcalfe Jnr found it hard to recover and Peckett was always a shot in hand giving him plenty of safety to putt out the hole and win the playoff by 1 shot and lock in 6th spot.
The tension was sure building and all the talk surrounded 3 competitors – Clarke, Wood and Winders. Clarke was thought to have thrown away his chance of being the first double champion with an awfully terrible 9 on the 3rd hole, his radical new “Tee it high, let it fly” approach wildly backfiring. Several fortunate hazard ricochets later however he found himself back in the mix with 93.
Wood also similarly stumbled on the 3rd tee block and his focus was visibly rattled – any holes a goal for this dirty birdie it appears as he promptly tried to skip some fairways and carry on straight to the 6th hole, almost causing riots from the bemused spectators. While he managed to reel in his emotions to get back into contention, he couldn’t repeat the magic of yesteryear and wound up with a sturdy 96.
Both athletes would live to regret those misfires which handed advantage to Winders who never looked like relinquishing his spot at the top of the leaderboard.
There would be only one man to break 90 this day and walk away with the spoils – Joel “The Shaft Bender” Winders shooting a handsome 89. A well earned victory and yet again another new name on the trophy!
1. Joel “The Shaft Bender” Winders – 89
2. Jawdin “I Like Big Putts & I Cannot Lie” Clarke – 93
3. Mat “I’ve Got a Big” Wood – 96
4. Paul “Gandalf, Lord Of The Pins” Metcalfe – 97
5. Roy ”Sultan of Swing” Grant – 98
6. Jimmy “Sir Slicealot” Peckett – 99 (playoff)
7. Phil “Fairway To Heaven” Metcalfe – 99
8. Jordan “The Iron Whisperer” Mann – 108
9. Nick “Sand Baggin” Hartnoll – 112
10. Blair “Dude, Where’s My Par” Robertson – 116
11. Jayesh “Señor Quattro-putt” – 118
12. Lucas “Dr. Hackenstein” Holmberg – 128
2014: FIRST TIME DOUBLE
Recap coming soon…
2015: “FINALLY” FOR METCALFE SNR
Writeup coming soon…
2016: 27th September, 9am
Phil’s Annual Birthday Golf tournament will be played for the 10th time in 2016.