100 YEARS OF THE NZ OPEN

28 Fe­bru­ary - 3 March 2019 at The Hills and Mill­brook Re­sort in Queen­stown.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS IAN HEPENSTALL

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.

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