Patrick Conolly (Canterbury) asserted himself as one of the most in-form young players in the country in a brilliant showing to win the 2023 Don Reyland Gold Star and trophy. The 21st Don Reyland Stars, and the first since the honorary’s passing, was held at Rangatira CC in Dannevirke from 17-19 March. 16 players, with handicaps ranging from 0-12, all competed in best of 13 matches for the national Open Singles GC Handicap.
Friday began with six players all winning their first three matches, and laying down the marker of the high standard with which the players needed to get to the tournament. The final two rounds of matches would see some changes in form though, with only Doug Cowie (Auckland), Mark Huttley (Wellington) and Patrick Conolly coming out of the first day with five wins out of five, closely followed by Amy Gust (Manawatu-Wanganui), Mike Guillemot (Marlborough) and Bryan Christy (Bay of Plenty) all with four wins.
Cowie and Conolly continued their form into Saturday, winning their first three matches of the day, with Cowie getting a crucial win over Mark Huttley to put them just ahead of the chasing pack. John Kane (Nelson) and Barry Patchett (Waikato-King Country) also got off to good starts, winning their first three matches of the day. However, in the early afternoon, Huttley got a crucial 7-5 win over Patrick Conolly, while Cowie won his 9th straight game against Amy Gust. Neil Armitage (Hawkes Bay) also got his first win of the week, meaning that all the players had at least one victory, further showing the strength of the field. The three leaders all won their final match of the day to set up an exciting Sunday.
The opening round on Sunday would prove to be massive, with Patrick Conolly beating overnight leader Doug Cowie 7-6. Mark Huttley also lost 7-4 to Amy Gust, with the player from Manawatu-Wanganui getting her 8th win of the week and putting herself into 4th place on the table. Bryan Blencowe (Taranaki) got his 4th win on the bounce on Sunday morning too until facing Conolly who got his 12th win. In the 2nd last round of matches, Doug Cowie lost for only the second time of the week, 7-5 to Ricky Clement (South Taranaki), while Conolly won 7-5 against Barry Patchett, putting one hand on the trophy. However, Patrick knew that a victory would be needed in the final round as Doug had the better net hoops despite being a win behind.
Conolly was able to show composure beyond his years, becoming the youngest ever winner of the Don Reyland Gold Star, after beating Kay Scrivener (South Canterbury) 7-4 in his final match. Doug Cowie secured the Silver Star, with a win over John Kane and finishing the week with an impressive 13 wins. Mark Huttley recovered from some early slips on Sunday to finish third with 12 wins, just ahead of Amy Gust and Bryan Christy.
Patrick goes into next month’s Terminator Mallets U21 GC Championship in great form.