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The Devil's Own — far more than a fusty male preserve

05 July 2019 - By Alice Nunn

Four years ago, my supervising partner, esteemed Devil’s Own legend and previous winner, Ron Backhouse, suggested I come to the Devil’s Own. At the time I had been playing golf sporadically for about three months. I explained this to Ron, who said that did not really matter at all (and he was right). I duly attended my first “DO”.

Devils Own Tournament winners holding a trophy

On the face of it, a long weekend in Palmerston North to play golf with 130 lawyers in September may not sound all that alluring. However, I can assure you that it should. In my view the DO is the most entertaining annual event you are likely to ever experience and I have gone back every year since.

It is hard to explain the enigma that is the DO and its broad appeal. There is friendly and fierce competition, camaraderie, humour, socialising, history and the opportunity to play one of New Zealand’s best golf courses. But, until you experience it for yourself words do not do the DO justice.

Instead I will attempt to encourage you to attend DO by removing all perceived barriers. For example “I can’t play golf” or “it is a fusty male preserve” are not good enough reasons not to come.

It is a golf tournament, so I need to play golf right?

I will be clear: it is helpful if you can hit a ball. I could not (and cannot) really play golf. I can hit the ball less than 10 times to get to the hole, so that is a great starting point. Some people hit the ball an average of 12 times to get to the hole. If you hit the ball more than 12 times to get to a hole, I suggest that you enter the “social golf” part of the tournament rather than one of the other competitions. But do not be dismayed as your social contribution will be just as well received as your golfing contribution.

I have been known to run an intensive golf training programme to get new golfers to the DO. If you are in Hamilton I am happy to assist with this. The intensive includes many YouTube video tutorials, a couple of lunchtime 45-minute driving range visits (at least a bucket of balls) and two golf course visits. If you undertake my training programme you will be fine at the DO.

I don’t know the rules of golf?

Nobody really knows the rules (with the exception of Mike Dixon). However, do google the terms: rules of golf, golf etiquette, Stableford points and match play. If you are still wary, the committee will ensure you play with a group who will not yell at you if you walk on someone’s putting line.

My work won’t give me time off?

I have set out the following arguments for you to present to your employers.

Exercise and fresh air is good for your wellbeing and makes you more productive. You tick both these boxes at the DO. The DO is a great networking opportunity. Partners and employers like it when you network. There are very few occasions in the legal profession where practitioners of all ages and stages come together, like they do at the DO. You could also go for a collective approach and get a group together from your work or region and make an annual bonding trip. At my firm a group of usually five or more of us attend the DO each year. There is power in numbers.

Is it a fusty male preserve?

Firstly, who cares if it is; break some glass ceilings and enjoy what the DO has to offer. Secondly, I am not male, and I have been told that I am not yet fusty. My female colleagues who have joined me over the past few years at the DO would also argue they are neither male nor fusty.

Alice Nunn alice.nunn@nwm.co.nz is an associate with Hamilton law firm Norris Ward McKinnon. When she isn’t on the golf course, she specialises in equine law, trusts, asset protection and succession planning.

85 and going strong

It has its own website and logo. It’s New Zealand’s oldest privately run golf tournament. Back in September 1931, four lawyers played a four ball match at Hokowhitu Golf Club. They enjoyed it so much that they organised a tournament in September 1932. And this year, from 26 to 29 September, the 85th tournament will be held. Same place, same time of year. Same participants – an invitation to the Devil’s Own is extended only to past or present members of the legal profession or judiciary. If you haven’t been invited but want to play, visit the website.

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Last updated on the 5th July 2019