MICHAEL GLADING HAS DONE IT ALL
With the 100th NZ Open approaching we talk to the man who has a long association with the event.
The Tournament Director of the championship that dates back to 1907 is flat out as his team looks to deliver a special experience at the 100th NZ Open at The Hills and Millbrook from 28 February - 3 March 2019. We took some time out with Glading to reminisce about his memories from over the years of New Zealand Golf’s pinnacle event and look at the plans going forward.
What are your earliest memories of the New Zealand Open?
Probably relate more to the fact that during my University days I was also a caddy and the New Zealand Open was always the No 1 event ‘on tour’. I started caddying for Sir Bob Charles in 1972 where the NZ Open was held at one of my all-time favourite courses Paraparaumu Beach; after that I hardly missed a year, through until my “retirement” as a caddy in 2009 – I caddied in nearly 30 National Opens!
Your old man won the title back to back as an amateur in 1946 and 1947, what was it like growing up with the legacy in your family? Did your Dad tell you many stories from his NZ Open success or experiences?
My Dad was always one for “living in the present and the future”, and seldom looked back at anything in life; sadly this included his golfing exploits, so he never really talked about his two NZ Open wins. I do know of course that he first won as an amateur straight after the war – to follow from five years of flying planes off aircraft carriers, and return to the game by winning his National Open, he must have had enormous talent. His second win was as a professional, as he turned pro after winning his first NZ Open. Above all, I know how proud he was to have won this event - for him, it was the pinnacle of his golf career. I do wish I’d asked him more!
Many great Kiwi golfers have won the title over the years, do you have any standout wins that you witnessed and why?
Two spring to mind - firstly, for selfish reasons, the number one standout was when I caddied for Bob Charles when he won at Manawatu in 1973, and secondly, Mike Hendry’s win at Millbrook in 2017. It had been such a long drought since a Kiwi had won, and I was thrilled for Mike, and for the game in New Zealand, to have a Kiwi back in the winning circle.
You caddied for Sir Bob Charles for how many years? I am told this included 26 New Zealand Opens, what was that experience like? What are your standout memories looking back?
Yes, I caddied for Bob in so many Opens I’ve just about lost count. Even though I had a “real job” during most of that time, I always took annual leave so I could get back on the bag! Bob only won the New Zealand Open once when I caddied for him, with a few near misses. The worst is one that actually stands out in my memory - funny how certain things remain etched after so many years - but Bob was leading the NZ Open by one stroke at Shirley (Christchurch) playing the last hole; a perfect drive was followed by an aggressive iron to a back pin. It looked like it would finish close, but the very last roll of the ball saw it drop into the back bunker. He failed to get up and down, and lost to American Bob Gilder in a play-off. Probably the worst I’ve ever felt on the golf course - I still feel sick thinking about that!!
My best memory however is at Manawatu the year before – I can’t remember the hole, but it was par 3 on the back nine, with Bob tied for the lead again; he mishit his tee shot and was on the front edge of a two-tiered green; The putt must have been at least 20m - can still remember holding the flag and hoping he could get it somewhere close - but as soon as the putt left his club I knew it was brilliant - sure enough, he holed it, and went on to win! A pivotal moment in a great week that I will never forget.
What was it like to caddy for Sir Bob when The Hills first hosted the NZPGA in 2007? Were you caddying for him when he was the oldest player to make a cut at a European Tour event?
Yes I caddied for him then. Another week that will live with me forever - he was playing so well, but not putting great; in his inimitable style he spent most evenings practising his putting; at nearly 72 years old, he still had the hunger! An incredibly satisfying week, and unlike Bob’s normal style, we actually had a huge celebration at his house after that event. What a player he is!
With your history with the event, how special was it to become the NZ Open Tournament Director?
To be honest it was never in my sights! After I left NZ Football [as the Chief Executive] I had no idea what I would do next - this fell into my lap with a nudge from Sir Michael Hill and John Hart, and it has been a blast ever since. Ironic that I had such a history with the event and end up running it! Fate maybe??!!! Who knows!
What do you and your team try to achieve with the event, with the Pro-Am format and all the colour with it these days?
We all work very hard to firstly, make sure that what we build is sustainable, and secondly, to make sure that everyone associated with the event enjoys it - professionals, amateur players, sponsors, spectators and the TV audience - they are all highly important for us.
What plans do you have for the 100th NZ Open?
We really want to continue to build this event; being #100 will mean we have a few more bells and whistles, and of course, it’s a time to celebrate the history of what we have been given custody of. New Zealand Golf deserve enormous credit for handing us the keys to this car, and we will drive it very carefully and respectfully!
What does it mean to you to be the man in charge of the 100th NZ Open with the amazing legacy and history this tournament has?
I know this may sound condescending, but to be honest it’s not about me - everyone involved has the same feeling of pride, and we work as a team. My pride comes out of the great work that others I’m surrounded with do. I do not personalise it!
When you arrive at the course first thing in the morning and it is quiet and you and your team are getting ready for the day, it must give you a lot of pride to deliver a tournament like this?
Yes, it’s always a lovely feeling when I do that very early walk to HQ, and know that we are totally ready for the day or week ahead of us. We work hard at preparation, and that allows me to take a deep breath and absorb the excitement of what lies ahead, and feel pretty good about it. A quiet sense of pride for sure. But then it all goes away when the first mini-crises hits!! And then it's head down from then on till the Monday after!
Bob Glading, Michael's father.
Sir Bob Charles and caddie Michael Glading.
John Hart and Michael Glading.