Pair in the mix

By ADAM HICKS

MATES who met on astroturf are heading to Sydney to swing it with the State's best amateur golfers.

Tony Clark of Evans Head and Nick De With of Coraki, both former Coraki hockey players, leave today to represent the Northern Rivers at the NSW Golf Association Men's Fourball Final in Bateman's Bay.

Clark, 41 and De With, 47 are among the top 40 pairs from across the State to qualify from around 10,000 amateurs for the two-day final starting tomorrow.

The 36-hole stableford promises to provide stiff competition but De With, who plays off a 23 handicap, said the experience gained through hockey would give them an advantage on the fairways.

"Playing hockey gives you a natural swing," he said. "Couple that with a large handicap and you're hard to beat."

Clark, who plays off 15, said he and De With played different styles according to their handicaps but complemented each other in the fourball format.

"I play a bit safer and just try to par," he said. "Nick's got more shots to play with so he is more aggressive.

"If we both play bad on the same hole it costs us. "But in the past, if I didn't score well, then Nick scored well and vice versa.

"We complement each other. "There's not much between both of us. "It all depends on luck." De With agreed.

"I'm not that talented either, my best asset is my handicap," he said.

Together their goal is to have a good time, but they are confident in their%chances.

"We're really keen to get down there and try our best to win it," Clark said.

"We're quietly confident but it all comes down to getting up and down off the green. "If I stuff up, I'll laugh. "If I miss a putt, so be it.

"I do it for the enjoyment, but I play to compete." It's a trait that comes from playing competitive hockey in local premiership and State title winning sides.

"We're just a couple of honest golfers," De With said. The Coraki pairing made the% final by winning the Northern%Rivers play-off by five points at% the Lismore Workers Golf Club% in August.

This is the second time Clark will compete in the final after finishing sixth eight years ago.

According to an event spokesperson, it is a tough feat to make the final twice.

"In 224 club qualifying rounds since January, district play-offs have narrowed it down to 20 metropolitan and 20 country pairs," he said.

"With such a long process to reach the final it is rare to see the same faces returning for a shot at the title, and this year is no exception with the event full of fresh faces, leaving the championship wide open."



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