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Golfing in Mt Aspiring National Park

The official opening (Luke Gardener)

In January of this year, I had the great privilege of being asked by DOC to open a new golf course. As an aspiring golfer myself, it seemed appropriate that I was asked to formally open the Mt Aspiring National Park Golf Course. The date had been set for Sunday the 17th of February when the first ball would be struck from the first tee, atop Mt Sisyphus. This gave me only a few weeks to choose my finest golfing attire and rally some of the finest members of OUTC to accompany me for this auspicious occasion. The fellow dignitaries were Joe Vincent, Luke ‘Smelly Pirate Hooker’ Gardener, Cleo Davie-Martin, and Penzy Dinsdale. We decided to make a weekend of it. I thought it would be very unprofessional if we were to show up to the top of Mt Sisyphus late on Sunday, when tee off time was scheduled for 10 am. I didn’t want to make a bad impression, otherwise it may hinder my chances of being invited by DOC to future high ranking, green-tie events. We left Dunedin on Friday night, with the goal of starting walking on Saturday morning. Early on Saturday, in the pre-dawn hour, it slowly dawned on me that today would be a bright one in the history of OUTC. We ran into some morning cow trouble up the East Branch of the Matukituki where one of our members was harassed, most needlessly, by a member of Farmer Brown’s cows. It almost spelt disaster for our group, but with the lure and promise of great glory, we continued. A particularly cheerful moment took place alongside Rainbow Stream around lunchtime. Joe had found himself a particularly nice rock with which he was going to commemorate the event by. He handed it to us all to inspect and admire, which we did. When it got to Luke ‘Inconsiderate Prick’ Gardener, he promptly threw it over his shoulder, to land amongst the thousands of other rocks. Joe’s precious find was gone in an instant, now lying, indistinguishable, amongst all the other rocks. The atmosphere was tense. I thought that may have spelt the end of the trip for us and we would have to turn around. Again, the lure and promise of great glory beckoned us on, and we continued. Eventually, we reached our salubrious accommodation for the night on Wilmot Saddle. Unfortunately, the organisers of the event had failed to reach the location before us, so we had to set up our own tent fly. Nature treated us to a great rock fall off the cliffs below Fastness Peak and Rainbow Col. We were fortunate to be on the saddle to view this great event, as only a few hours earlier we were walking where the rocks were falling. If it had have occurred earlier, we would not have had a great view of the rockfall and the show would have been wasted on us.

The big day was fast approaching and the pressure was getting to members of our team. Joe developed a case of the ‘Crookies’ on Saturday night and was so nervous that he couldn’t eat. Even the food that had previously passed his lips made a reappearance. I believe it had been told about the rock show but were too late to witness it. Luke ‘I’m an Expert Photographer’ Gardener lost all sense of how to use his camera. He took great pride in carrying up a tripod to help capture the perfect shot on tee off. His role on the team was to be the official photographer. When questioned on his photography skills prior to the trip, he assured me that he had used a camera and tripod before. My suspicions were aroused on Saturday evening when I caught him using his tripod. He had attached the camera to the tripod and then proceeded to hold the camera in his hands, in front of his face, taking photos in the usual manner. I queried him on this unusual technique of using the tripod in this way. He became agitated and threatened to practice his golfing technique on my face. I left him to his photography, hoping that this episode wouldn’t derail the entire trip. As per Saturday, Sunday dawned on us bright and early. This was the day. The excitement was palpable. All that stood between us and great glory was a short ascent of 177 vertical metres. Over breakfast, we speculated about how we would be received back in civilisation and how this great day would change our lives forever. Joe had regained his appetite and Luke was still in a bastardly mood. He was fixated on the lure of bounty and buried treasure, which he was convinced was atop Mt Sisyphus. I asked him if the photography story was just a cover to get on the trip. He replied by saying, “I’ll cleave you to the brisket and feed you to the fishies if you get between me and my dubloons you scurvy dog. So watch out or I’ll jam me cutlas up your rin’ piece if you don’t walk t’ plank.” Fair enough I thought, hopefully the TV coverage for the day is on a delayed feed, otherwise he will embarrass the entire OUTC with his antics. The 177 metres disappeared quickly as we strode towards our fate. I was in my finest golfing attire, as was Joe. The first tee beckoned! Luke ‘Old Salt’ Gardener showed his true colours shortly after reaching the top. He pulled out a pirate hat, eye piece, dagger, and pirate flag from his pack. He donned the gear and thrust the pirate flag into the top of the mountain screaming, “For Davy Jones!!!!” A brief but bloody battle ensued. I, in my finest woollen vest and collared shirt, against this pirate. He was armed with a dagger and I only with a golf club. With Mt Aspiring watching in the distance, I overcame this scallywag, much to the relief of everyone present. He would pose no danger to us for the rest of the trip. Luckily he didn’t cut my pants, otherwise I would have had to bring out my spare set. I brought along two just in case I got a hole in one.

The rest of the day was your usual red carpet affair. The glitz and glamour of opening the country’s newest golf course was fitting to its status. There were interviews for the golfers monthly and plenty of champagne. No matter how you putt it, the day was a success. One of the interviewers was a bit of an odd fellow. He came out of nowhere and later confided that he suffers from premature ejaculation. What that’s got to do with golf has me beat, but you could tell he was green with envy. Everyone overlooked the fact that the course itself was a complete shambles. DOC had clearly created the course purely for a tax dodge. The greens were covered in rocks, there were no facilities, the holes were near on invisible, the fairways were rough as guts, and the shrubbery adorning the perimeter of the course was actually very dense bush. As a dignitary, our party did not have to pay green fees. This was fortunate as any sane person would have refused to pay them just on principal. You can’t go charging $5 a head and expect people to happily pay it when the course looked like it hardly existed. However, the view was nice and Mt Aspiring provided a welcome distraction from the state of the course. Our party all had a go at completing the first hole. This proved harder than it looked as each ball that we drove off the tee disappeared into the distance and off the side of the mountain. This meant that we took a penalty point as well as having to tee off again. We continued in this vein until the sizeable supply of golf balls had all gone. The promise of being choppered off the top of Mt Sisyphus to the 19th hole where we could celebrate our successes proved to be a lie. We were forced to walk back to the car park, 8 hours away via point 1723, then following the ridge to the southwest through the damn-near impenetrable bush. I would not recommend this way to an amateur golfer unless they want to fast track their way to being a professional and have a penchant for getting very scratched up. Since that memorable day, the fame and paparazzi attention has diminished, but our memories still stay strong. My advice for any other OUTC’ers asked by DOC to attend any similar events, would be to do your homework on the event first. This may save some embarrassment when it turns out that your event is not actually as glamorous as DOC makes it out to be and that in fact you have to arrange your own chopper ride courtesy of an EPIRB. But in saying that, I would not trade my experience for the world, or the lifetime membership I received as payment for my time there.

Party: Luke Gardener (L), Cleo Davie-Martin, Josh Brinkmann, Joe Vincent, Penzy Dinsdale

- Digitized from Antics 2013

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