100 YEARS OF THE NZ OPEN
28 February - 3 March 2019 at The Hills and Millbrook Resort in Queenstown.
That represents an opportunity to both look back at the extraordinary changes in this sport over the previous 100 editions, and to look forward to where this great game is heading.
The history of golf in this country dates back to 1871 but it was more than two decades later before an annual national amateur championship was established.
As the game in its fledgling began to grow, so too did calls for a number of added events. Officials would look to run these at the same time, and thus in 1907 the first New Zealand Open Championship was staged.
It drew a field of 130 players to the Napier Golf Club at Waiohiki with the 36-hole strokeplay event incorporating four different competitions, staged concurrently. They comprised the Open Championship, the Hawke’s Bay Championship, the Amateur Bogey and the Medal Handicap.
That inaugural event included just seven professionals and was dominated by amateurs.
It is therefore perhaps significant that 100 Open Championships later, while the 2019 iteration will be fought out for a prize purse of around NZ$1.2 million, it will rely on the considerable financial input from more than 100 amateur players who will pay to play alongside the professionals in this uniquely successful format.
Back in 1907 the key figure was Wellington amateur Arthur Duncan, who first competed for the amateur crown in 1895 at the Hutt Racecourse. He won three of the four events that week in Napier and finished fourth in the remaining handicap event.
The Wellington Golf Club member, playing off a Plus 8 handicap, shot a first round 76 against a par (bogey) of 82, to break the course record. He would win by seven shots and
become the greatest figure in the game in New Zealand in the first two decades of the 1900s.
Duncan would claim three New Zealand Open titles, winning in 1910 at Christchurch Golf Club (Shirley) and 1911 at Wanganui Golf Club (Belmont), and the national amateur champion honours on 10 occasions. His final amateur crown came in 1926 while he finished in the top-five at the New Zealand Open on 16 occasions until 1935, nearly three decades after his first appearance and victory in Napier.
He got to play the New Zealand Open twice on his home course at Wellington Golf Club at Heretaunga, finishing fifth in 2012 when he was
We are delighted with the progress we are making and the quality of the professional field. The prizemoney now is over NZ$1 million which is attractive to the players, and this year we are again cosanctioned with the Asia Tour.
chasing his third straight title, and runner-up in 1932. He finished one shot behind Scottish born professional Andrew Shaw who won for the fourth straight time and would go on to claim the New Zealand Open honours seven times.
Fast forward to 2019 when 152 professionals will join the same number of amateurs for the 100th celebration of the New Zealand Open. It will be played on two adjoining courses of The Hills and Millbrook Resort in Queenstown, and is now a Tier One event which for the second year will be cosanctioned by ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour, and in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour.
Since 2014 the New Zealand Open has been guided by an organization led by well-known sporting figure and businessman, John Hart under a format with amateurs paying to play alongside the professionals, like the AT&T and the Dunhill Links events.
The first two rounds will be split over The Hills and Millbrook Resort with the final two rounds at The Hills. It has been a move that has reinvigorated the championship both financially and in lifeblood.
Above all the professionals love the format, the presentation of the event and the stunning location on and off the golf courses.
There is firm support from the players, and the growth path continues in terms of commercial support, mostly from overseas which makes it one of the most successful sporting models in the country.
The development of cosanctioning with the Asian Tour, and potentially in the future with the Japan Tour, brings considerable added status, stronger fields and significantly more eyeballs as the television footage from these uniquely stunning surrounds are beamed to more and more homes around the globe.
“We are delighted with the progress we are making and the quality of the professional field. The prizemoney now is over NZ$1 million which is attractive to the players, and this year we are again co-sanctioned with the Asia Tour,” said Hart.
“That means our potential audience for the television coverage is over 750 million homes spread throughout Australia, Japan, Asia, USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
“I don’t see the tournament going anywhere else. We have great partners in Millbrook Resort and The Hills which is great for the game, great for tourism and certainly also for Queenstown.”
The 18th green at Millbrook Golf Resort, Queenstown during the 2018 ISPS Handa New Zealand Golf Open.