A round of golf with an All Black great and a piece of Lydia Ko memorabilia are part of a fundraising tournament for champion Poverty Bay-East Coast golfer Andrew Higham who suffered multiple serious injuries in an early-morning car crash at Mahia on Sunday, May 14.

TP Strong 4 Andy is the name of the tournament to be held at Poverty Bay’s Awapuni Links course on Sunday, July 16. It is being organised by Higham’s fellow representative players and long-time Poverty Bay East Coast golf team manager and Poverty Bay Golf Club-based PGA of NZ professional and club manager Dave Keown.

Golf-loving Andy Higham, 36, was heading home after representing Te Puia Springs in the Oligoi Jug men’s interclub pennants at the Mahia course the day before. After being rescued from the vehicle crash, Andy Higham was transferred to Waikato Hospital in a critical condition, and after undergoing several operations is now in the hospital’s neurological ward in the early stages of what is going to be a lengthy recovery.

The initials TP stand for Te Puia Springs — the course where Andy’s father Mark introduced him and older brother Aaron to the game as boys. All three are still members. Since then, Andy Higham has established himself as one of the district’s finest players - representing Poverty Bay-East Coast for more than 20 years, and winning every major men’s title the region has to offer.

Plans were made for the charity golf tournament to raise funds to help the self-employed painter/decorator’s partner and whanau - three girls aged 10-months, two, and six-years old. The response both locally and outside the district has been incredible. Through Property Brokers Gisborne, it has been arranged for All Black great and keen golfer Christian Cullen to play in the tournament. The other three spots in Cullen’s four on the day will be auctioned off.

Golf NZ has also come to the fundraising party - donating a Lydia Ko-signed flag from the New Zealand Women’s Open, which is expected to be a popular auction item. Golf club company Ping donated a $1,200 driver and a $600 golf bag, which will be lucky draw prizes on the day.

Keown went to his golfing suppliers and fellow NZ PGA professionals “right across the board” and they were more than happy to contribute items to both the tournament and charity auction. Waitangi Golf Club pro’ Pieter Zwart — a former Hawke’s Bay representative who won the 2006 Poverty Bay Open, and jointly holds the Poverty Bay course record (8-under 64) — donated four green fees and buggy hireage at Waitangi, and similar packages have been donated for the Remuera and St Andrew’s (Hamilton) golf courses.

“It’s gaining momentum,” said Keown, who sees the response as a mark of respect and love for Higham — a tenacious matchplayer who on his day has proved he can match it with any amateur in the country. Keown says the local golfing fraternity perhaps does not realise how well-regarded Higham and his teammates are by other provinces, and how well they play against the odds at the annual national interprovioncials — the only outside event PBEC competes in nowadays.

“The one thing about Andy is that he leaves everything on the golf course. He wears his heart on his sleeve . . . never gives away a hole. Quite often his opponent will feel he has the upper hand on him only for Andy to drain a 40-foot putt . . . his attitude is magic. You always know that with Andy, he’ll give it his all.”

Andy Higham’s top level golfing commitment began in 2002 when he made his first PBEC junior team, and marked it with a win. Two years later he won the first of King of the Coast men’s open title at Tolaga Bay and competed in his first national interprovincial, winning his debut match - prompting manager John de Denne to say: “he’s got the goods”. Higham has worn the PBEC colours at 13 national inteprovincials — three years were missed while he was living in Dunedin.

Higham is one of an elite group to have completed the Triple Crown of PBEC golf — Poverty Bay, King of the Coast, and East Coast Open titles. He won the PB Open in 2014 and 2017, the KotC in 2004, 2012 and 2013, and the EC Open in 2011, 2015, 2018 and 2019. He also has a lengthy list of senior club championship titles at the Te Puia Springs and Poverty Bay courses. His other feats include a rare albatross, on the par-5 first hole at the Bay.

A start sheet for the TP Strong 4 Andy fundraiser is available at the pro’ shop at Poverty Bay Golf Club. Entry is $50. An ANZ account has been set up for those wanting to pay their entry online or give a koha. The account name is TP Strong and the number is 06-0637-0762520-50. Participants/donors can enter their name in the reference section, and indicate either entry or koha.