Cook Islands’ Howard wants to do what he loves most... flying high

Cook Islands’ Howard wants to do what he loves most... flying high

October 26, 2023
Watch: William Howard Full Interview

Quite literally, Ned William Bechnum Abera Tiavare Howard has lofty ambitions. And the 30-year-old from Cook Islands is intent on showing it at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC).

It’s just like what he is doing with his day job in the stunning island of Rarotonga. A check-in agent with Air Rotarua, William Howard (he prefers the shortened version of his full name) dreams of becoming a licensed pilot very soon and has already clocked over 40 hours flying a two-seater Cessna over the South Pacific islands.

Take-off for Howard

“Hopefully, by the time I play the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship next year, I will have my pilot’s license,” said Howard, who is making his ninth AAC appearance this year at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, the most in the field of 120 at the historic Dr. Alister MacKenzie-designed golf course.

Howard made the first of his eight previous starts at the 2013 AAC at Nanshan International Golf Club in China and became the first player from his country to make the cut despite opening with an 81. That gave him the bragging rights over his father, Ned Howard, who played in the 2011 Championship at Singapore Island Country Club.

Since then, Howard has made the cut in five AACs, with his best being a tied 28th place in New Zealand in 2017. His lowest round is a 66 in the first round of the 2015 edition at Hong Kong’s Clearwater Bay.

Howard is very clear that he is not here to make up the numbers, especially after the uplifting and educative experience of attending the AAC Academy earlier this year at Royal Melbourne. That, he believes, gives him a slight advantage over many others in the field.

Academy Preparation Key

“Making the cut is something that I always want to do. The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is the biggest tournament I get to play all year. It is an amazing opportunity given to us by Augusta National Golf Club, The R&A and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC),” said Howard, who has forgotten how many times he has won the Rarotonga Open, the biggest golf tournament back home.

“I missed the cut when I played at Royal Melbourne last time in 2014. So, making the cut would be the first aim on this demanding course. However, I want to be in contention this year. Being part of the AAC Academy was an amazing experience and I feel it has prepared me to handle the golf course better.

“The Academy is again something that we need to be thankful about. It is a great initiative from the Founding members, and it is playing a huge role in elevating the standard of players from the region.”

In the 15 islands that make up the Cook Islands, most with population of less than 250. There are two nine-hole courses and roughly 300 members. Howard says he is doing his bit to grow the game in his country and this week is again when golfers back home will become very excited about the sport.

Family affair

“Obviously, my dad played in the tournament in 2011 and he inspired me to take up golf. I then did my schooling and college in New Zealand, and that helped me become a better golfer. But the sport is still limited to a few families in Cook Islands, and I try my best to add to that number,” said Howard. 

“There are people coming up to me asking for lessons. I also do some stuff with junior golfers over the weekends. There are two kids I am working with – one of them is a nephew of mine – who are showing a lot of promise.”

Not only has participation in the AAC over the years improved his golf, it has also made William develop friendships for life.

“I guess just with the knowledge of playing so many shots on so many good and difficult golf courses and against such good fields always helps. I have learned that there are so many different ways to play golf.

“You learn from the top players. So many of them are now playing on top Tours. It’s pretty awesome to see them on the TV.

“And that’s the other thing. I have made many friends over the years because of the AAC. Some of them are doing so well. What guys like Min Woo Lee and Danny Hillier are doing as professionals is so inspiring to me. There are some whom I haven’t kept in touch with, but I am sure I can walk up to them, and they would be happy to see me.”