A Griffith-based team of expat Cook Islanders has won a major Leeton golf tournament and will now have the opportunity to represent the town on the national stage.
The Scramble is a yearly tournament in which amateur teams from 400 clubs across Australia compete in an elimination-style format. Some 72 players took part in the 30th annual Leeton Scramble, which was was hosted by Leeton Golf Club in conjunction with Griffith City Volkswagen on Sunday (20 August).
A group of workers from chicken producer Baiada Poultry – Noa Ngarau, Taoloa Toru, Okotai Woetai and Tia Taikakara – came first in the tournament. This means they will go on to play in the regional finals in Shepparton in October and, if successful, compete for the national title in early December.
“We had lots of fun on Sunday,” Mr Ngarau said. “We didn’t used to play golf back in the Cook Islands but we’ve gotten into it since being in Griffith. I’ve now been playing for five years.”
Islanders are better known for excelling at sports like rugby, but Leeton Golf Club professional Jason Mimmo says that’s rapidly changing.
“They are mad about golf and they are very good at it,” he said. “There is even an Islander golf day in Griffith that’s well attended.”
Mr Ngarau said he preferred golf to rugby.
“It’s safer, you get less injuries.”
His golf team is named ”Wale”, which is the name of one of the islands that make up his country, which is in the South Pacific Ocean.
Cook Islanders are a growing community in Griffith, so much so that Lifesource, a Pentecostal Christian church, last year launched a weekly service in the native Maori language. The population of the country is just 15,000, but there are almost double that number of Cook Islanders (28,000) living in Australia.
The Wale team has big shoes to fill – the 2022 Leeton Scramble champions (Jason Curry, Craig Curry, Jono Schofield and Marcus Wynn) won the regional event in Tocumwal and went on to the national finals in Queensland.
Last Sunday’s event, which was also sponsored by Yenda beer, was completed without interruption despite the early threat of rain.
The four-man team of Mathew Ganderton, John Schofield, Alexander Ingram and Cooper Purtill came second, while Joshua Helson, Shane Whelan, Lindsay Fysh and Ben Elwin finished third.
“I’d love to give a shout-out to Griffith City Volkswagen, they have stayed on board even though Volkswagen are no longer national sponsor. Their support has been great,” Mr Mimmo said.
Griffith City Volkswagen brand manager Sarah Taranto said: “We want to keep our connection strong with the Leeton community. Mark and Dean Owen [dealership owners] love golf and we’ll continue supporting the event for as long as we can.”
Mr Mimmo encouraged newcomers to get involved in the sport.
“There’s always social short-form competitions, and we regularly conduct clinics and starter groups,” he said.
The Griffith Scramble is scheduled for 10 September, while the Wagga event is set down for 24 September.
Further information on Leeton Golf Club can be found on its Facebook page.