THE two most successful golfers in Club Taree Golf Club's recent history look set to battle out the final round of the Saxby-Schweppes championship tomorrow.
Ben Marron will be shooting for his third straight title. He shares the lead with Peter Doherty on 215. Doherty is the most prolific championship winner in the club's history with eight, his last two years before Marron started his run.
Matt Walz with 220 and Shayne Jennings on 225 are the others in the leading group.
Marron has already won the Manning River Open and retained his Wingham championship this year.
However, he agreed his form was somewhat inconsistent in the opening three rounds of the Taree title defence. In fact Marron described his first round of 76 as 'a disgrace.'
"I putted terribly,'' he said.
"I had 37 putts. Usually I have 28 or 29.''
Walz was the leader after the opening week.
Marron recovered in the second round to fire a 67 to take a share of the lead with Doherty in a performance labelled by Times' golf columnist Gibbo as 'a statement of intent.'
Marron's been no stranger to close finishes during his two year reign as club champion.
Last year he trailed Doherty by a shot going into the final round before winning comfortably.
He puts his lack of consistency this time around down to the fact that he hasn't been playing as much as usual.
However, he believes that if he finds form with the putter, then he'll be a strong chance of retaining the crown. Marron thinks it'll be a two-way challenge between Doherty and himself.
"Golf's a funny game though - anything can happen,'' he said.
"Matt Walz is playing well but I think he's the only other one who can win it.''
Doherty admits he's surprised to still be a contender.
"I didn't think I'd break 80,'' he said.
Doherty said work and family commitments cut into the amount of time he can devote to golf these days. While he's been the most consistent of the two in the opening three rounds he said that Marron will start warm favourite tomorrow.
"If Ben plays well then he's going to be hard to beat,'' he said.
He says Walz can still come into contention.
"If Matt gets his putter going than he can do anything,'' he said.
"But I think Ben and I would have to play really badly and he's have to play really well for that to happen.''
Doherty's looking forward to the contest and he believes a round of around 70 to 71 should be good enough to claim the prize.
However, he says he won't feel any undue pressure.
"Not any more - I'm too old and decrepit,'' he said.
"There'll be a bit of adrenalin in the first couple of holes I guess - but in the end it's only a game of golf.''
Doherty and Marron agree on one thing.
"It's going to be a bit of fun,'' they both said.