New Zealand Golfers Re­turn­ing Home

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

Ahome grown event just wouldn’t be the same with­out the pres­ence of play­ers from that coun­try. And this year, one of the strong­est con­tin­gents of Kiwi pro­fes­sion­als in re­cent his­tory will line up at the NZPGA Cham­pi­onship in Queen­stown Fe­bru­ary 28 to March 3. The ma­jor­ity of the coun­try’s best play­ers will tee off at The Hills for the PGA Tour of Aus­trala­sia tour­na­ment, rais­ing hopes of an­other home­grown cham­pion in 2013. Michael Hendry is re­turn­ing to de­fend his ti­tle, af­ter be­com­ing the first win­ner of the event un­der the new celebrity Pro-Am for­mat last year. Hendry had a fan­tas­tic year in 2012, go­ing on to win an­other three ti­tles af­ter his vic­tory in Queen­stown as well as rack­ing up a num­ber of top 10 fin­ishes on the PGA Tour of Aus­trala­sia and the OneAsia tour. He also se­cured his card on the lu­cra­tive 2013 Ja­pan Tour af­ter a top 30 fin­ish at qual­i­fy­ing school. An­other three former cham­pi­ons from New Zealand will join Hendry in the field. The 2009 win­ner Steven Alker is back af­ter miss­ing the event last year. Alker fin­ished 2012 in fine form with a top five fin­ish at the Chile Clas­sic on the Tour. Ear­lier in the year, he showed just how good he really is with a top 20 fin­ish at The Open Cham­pi­onship at Royal Lytham and St Annes. The 1984 cham­pion Greg Turner is also back for a crack at the ti­tle. Turner sur­prised ev­ery­one when he dusted off his clubs af­ter al­most a decade in re­tire­ment to play the Hare­wood Open last year. He also lined up in the NZ Open at Clear­wa­ter and de­fied all the odds to make the cut and play all four rounds, 10 years af­ter he last con­tested the event. The other former win­ner, Simon Owen, who is best re­mem­bered for his duel with Jack Nick­laus in the 1978 Bri­tish Open (where he fin­ished run­ner-up), makes a rare reap­pear­ance in a ma­jor pro­fes­sional event, which marks the cen­te­nary of the New Zealand PGA. The 2012 NZPGA run­ner-up, and former Euro­pean Tour win­ner Mark Brown, who fin­ished a cred­itable fifth on the PGA Tour or Aus­trala­sia Or­der of Merit, will be look­ing to go one bet­ter this year. Other top tour­ing Ki­wis who will play the NZPGA this year in­clude David Smail, Ryan Fox, Gareth Pad­di­son, Josh Geary, Brad Shilton and Richard Lee, as well as Perth­based Michael Long. Throw in Phil Tatau­rangi and Aus­tralian Peter Fowler, who many deem to be an honorary Kiwi hav­ing lived in Auck­land for two decades, and there is rea­son to be op­ti­mistic of a win­ner from New Zealand. It’s a ring­ing en­dorse­ment of the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion to adopt the celebrity Pro-Am for­mat last year. Tour­na­ment Di­rec­tor Michael Glad­ing has no doubt it has played a key role in lur­ing the coun­try’s top tal­ent home. ‘‘The tour­na­ment has a unique feel to it, and is clearly one that the ma­jor­ity of pros en­joy. The majesty of Queen­stown, and The Hills in par­tic­u­lar is a strong draw card, and we are really de­lighted to have all of our top play­ers other than Camp­bell and Lee (both of whom are com­mit­ted else­where) come and join us this year. ‘‘Steve Alker has made a huge com­mit­ment by fly­ing all the way home for this event, and proves that our grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion for pro­vid­ing a fan­tas­tic week of golf and hos­pi­tal­ity is start­ing to reap div­i­dends.’’

- Sup­plied by Heather Kidd

Photo: Stacy Squires/FAIRFAX NZ PRO-AM: Michael Hendry is re­turn­ing to de­fend his ti­tle.

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