A 14-year-old golfer from Rotorua is the youngest winner of the $10,000 grand prize at Taupō's Hole in One Challenge.
Kevin Bang was playing the game for the first time “for a laugh”, but already had an advantage over many players; he’s a golfer visiting Taupō for the North Island Age Group Championships, where he’s competing in the under-16 category.
“I was having a practice round with my mates, then we went to the water park after.
“We decided to go to the Hole in One for fun, but I didn’t think I’d win.”
The Lake Taupō Hole in One Challenge involves hitting a golf ball off the lakeshore towards one of three holes on pontoons set at varying distances on the water.
Golfers can win the $10,000 grand prize if they hit the furthest hole 102m from the driving platforms.
Bang estimated the winning shot was his ninth or tenth attempt off the tee.
Before his winning shot, he joked with his friends that he’d jump in the lake if he won the grand prize.
Once he hit it, he thought the ball had landed on the island, which would have earned him another free try but no prize.
The staff couldn’t initially tell whether he’d made the hole-in-one, so there was a delay while they checked Bang’s shot.
“I thought it had just hit the island and I was expecting to just get another ball from the guy there.”
“The guy got the binocs out and realised it had gone in.”
Kevin Bang, 14, from Rotorua, shows the golfing prowess that earned him $10,000 at the Hole in One Challenge in Taupō. Photo / Dan Hutchinson
Zane Kitchen, business manager for the Lake Taupō Hole in One Challenge, said it was the first big winner either of the staff working that day had seen.
But staff member Stevie Ngaheu had a good feeling about the shot, said Kitchen, because when it landed “he thought he’d heard a sound that he hadn’t heard before”.
Ngaheu used binoculars to confirm Bang’s win, as balls that land in the hole roll down a gutter into a box at the front of the pontoon to make them easier to see.
Once it had dawned on Bang that he had taken the prize, though, excitement kicked in.
“I was just freaking out. I called my dad, called my mum and told them.
“I was laughing, yelling.”
The call was so unexpected that his mum didn’t believe him initially, thinking he was playing a prank.
He was true to his word though, and jumped into the lake for a quick victory lap.
Kevin Bang, 14, won the Lake Taupō Hole in One Challenge $10,000 prize.
His plans for the golfing prize are appropriately on-theme; first, he wants to pay his parents back for the investment they’ve made in him as a golfer since he started playing five-and-a-half years ago.
He’d also like to buy some new equipment and fund some of the tournaments he’s heading to this year.
Kitchen said Bang was the youngest winner of the grand prize since the attraction opened in 1993, and one of only 12 winners in total.
However, with business busier than ever they’ve seen a recent uptick in winners, with 100 people taking a prize across the three holes within the past 12 months, including Bang and one other $10,000 winner last August.
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