Time for NZ Open ‘to soar’


Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By GRANT BRYANT

With New Zealand’s top golf­ing event on its doorstep, Ar­row­town is throw­ing a party and ev­ery­one’s in­vited. The main street will be closed, bands will be rock­ing, the flame per­form­ers will be there and fan­tas­tic lo­cal food and drink will be avail­able on the night be­fore the NZ Open gets un­der way at The Hills and Mill­brook golf cour­ses. Adding to the fun will be some of the golfers and celebrity golfers join­ing in and, of course, it’s never a party in Ar­row­town with­out the Buck­ing­ham Belles and Min­ers Band kick­ing things off. Six-piece band Red En­ter­tain­ment, which is packed with lo­cal stars in­clud­ing Mar­garet O’Han­lon, Nigel Hirst and Char­lotte Graf, will be on the stage un­til dark, promis­ing to play lots of crowd pleasers. And ev­ery­one can get there – a bus will be car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers from the Sta­tion Build­ing in cen­tral Queen­stown at 5pm to Ar­row­town and re­turn­ing at 10.30pm. Or­gan­iser Julie Hughes said it was a chance for ev­ery­one to be part of the event. ‘‘We want it to be a fun com­mu­nity event as well as wel­com­ing all the visi­tors and vol­un­teers.’’ The fam­ily friendly event was free to join. BYO al­co­hol is pro­hib­ited. One of the piv­otal play­ers in the rein­vig­o­rated New Zealand Open reck­ons the time is ripe for the tour­na­ment to soar. Win­ner of the last two NZ PGA Champs at The Hills, Michael Hendry, said the mo­men­tum and back­ers be­hind the Ar­row­town tour­na­ment, which tees off late next month, had reached a level where it was well on track to be­com­ing an in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned bou­tique golf tour­na­ment. ‘‘There’s a lot of fac­tors that go into mak­ing a great tour­na­ment but one of the key signs is what the play­ers are talk­ing about it at other events around the world, and there’s a lot of great play­ers that are want­ing to be here to com­pete,’’ he said. Key to cre­at­ing that buzz amongst top pros was the draw­card of Queen­stown and the great rep­u­ta­tion of Sir Michael Hill’s The Hills golf course, home of the tour­na­ment, as well as Mill­brook, which serves as satel­lite tour­na­ment course. How­ever, player buzz was not enough to com­pete with the huge money and pres­tige tour­na­ments be­ing played around the world, at around the same time. ‘‘So many of the top-tier play­ers are want­ing to fight it out for PGA ti­tles up for grabs around the world dur­ing this time of the year, which means the NZ Open has to work on a dif­fer­ent level. I think in terms of unique­ness and that bou­tique qual­ity the [NZ] Open is re­ally get­ting up there and has got so many years to fur­ther de­velop what it al­ready has.’’ Get­ting more top Ja­panese pros into the tour­na­ment was a sure sign that the all round qual­ity of the event was be­com­ing an in­ter­na­tional draw­card, Hendry said. ‘‘Last year Toshi Muto played and has been say­ing great things about the tour­na­ment, and I know he can’t wait to get back.’’ This year 10 Ja­panese pros from the lu­cra­tive Ja­pan Golf Tour will join Muto, who re­turns af­ter tak­ing part in last year’s NZPGA Cham­pi­onship - a pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion of the Ar­row­town tour­na­ment which has upped the ante this year. ‘Get­ting the celebs here is a big thing, and re­ally opens up this golf tour­na­ment to non-golf­ing spec­ta­tors. The sculp­ture in­stal­la­tions around the course, the mu­sic and en­ter­tain­ment and food and wine re­ally means that its an event, and its im­por­tant for golf to step out of its usual bounds some­times.’’ This year’s celebrity play­ers in­clude a trio of Aus­tralian and New Zealand for­mer cricket cap­tains, for­mer NRL star Wen­dell Sailor, The Amaz­ing Race pre­sen­ter Phil Keoghan, and celebrity chef Josh Em­mett. A host of ex-All Blacks will also join well-known Amer­i­can dancer, chore­og­ra­pher and model Cris Judd in the Pro-Am sec­tion of the Open.


What: NZ Open Ar­row­town Wel­come Party Where: Buck­ing­ham St, Ar­row­town When: Fe­bru­ary 27, from 5.30pm till 10pm BIG­GER BUZZ: Piv­otal player in this year’s New Zealand Open golf tour­na­ment Michael Hendry stands amongst some of the sculp­ture in­stal­la­tions on Sir Michael Hill’s The Hills golf course, home of the tour­na­ment.


Wel­come party: REDband will be rock­ing Ar­row­town dur­ing the town’s NZ Open wel­come party. The band is, from left: Nigel Hirst, Char­lotte Graf, Matt An­thony, Mar­garet O’Han­lon and Ivan Hamil­ton. Ab­sent was Mark Wil­son.

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