THE HISTORY OF GOLF IN NEW ZEALAND DATES BACK TO 1871 BUT IT WAS NOT UNTIL 1893 THAT AN ANNUAL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WAS ESTABLISHED, WITH THE FIRST NEW ZEALAND OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP STAGED IN 1907, WITH 130 PLAYERS COMPETING AT NAPIER GOLF CLUB AT WAIOHIKI I
100 years of the NZ Open.
Nineteen-year-old J A Clements, the first New Zealand born professional, who became prominent in the development of the game at that time, won the 1908 New Zealand Open Championship at Balmacewen. He went on to win the following year but was well beaten Duncan in Christchurch 1910, who repeated the effort in 1911 in Wanganui.
Clements returned to his winning ways in 1912 at Heretaunga before giving way to E S Douglas who triumphed at Balmacewen in 1913 and at Middlemore in 1914 where he held off both Duncan and Clements in the final championship before war intervened.
Douglas picked up where he left off to win the first post-war Open at Waiohiki in 1919.
Australian professional J H Kirkwood became the first overseas player to win the championship at St Andrews (Hamilton) in 1920, finishing clear of New Zealand’s Sloan Morpeth.
Douglas bounced back for his sixth and final Open title in Christchurch the following year.
Professional A Brooks claimed the 1922 Open at Hokowhitu and 1923 in Wanganui before giving way to a new champion, Ernie Morse who held off in remarkable Duncan at Middlemore in 1924.
E M MacFarlane became only the second amateur Open champion when he won at Shirley in 1925 and three years later the remarkable Sloan Morpeth fought off snow and the professionals to win at Balmacewen.
The 1930 Open Championship at Hokowhitu marked the third of an eventual six titles by A J Shaw and the first of four occasions he won the Jellicoe Cup for his second round 68. Shaw's opening 36-hole total of 147 was the foundation for his winning score of 284, only once bettered in the next 20 years.
Bob Glading celebrated the first Open after the war in 1946 with victory as an amateur following an 18-hole playoff at Hokowhitu. He repeated the feat the following year.
James Galloway took out the 1949 title at Bridge Pa breaking Shaw's record with 283, a total that equalled the Australian Open record held by Gene Sarazen and Keith Pix.
The new decade brought with it a new era when outstanding Australian professional Peter Thomson set a new standard winning by nine shots at Christchurch.
This sparked more than two decades of memorable New Zealand Open championships dominated by Thomson, fellow Australians Kel Nagle and Bruce Devlin and our own Bob Charles - a quartet who broke through to the top of sport on the world scene.
Thomson and Nagle went on to win seven New Zealand Open championships each, the last in 1969. Charles won his first Open in 1954 while an amateur, fighting off Bruce Crampton and Thomson among other top-ranking professionals. He had to wait until 1966 to add his second, then as a professional, and added two further championships in 1970 and 1973.
Nagle was one of the most popular of visitors, with his 1958 title at Paraparaumu particularly memorable, when he fought off challenges from Thomson, the great Gary Player and Australian wizard Norman Von Nida.
New Zealanders won twice in the 70s - Charles in 1973 and the outstanding victory by Simon Owen in 1976. They were the last occasions that Kiwis would have their name on the trophy for more than a decade, as young Americans on the rise in the game, used the New Zealand circuit as a stepping stone in their careers. American winners in the 70s and 80s included Bob Gilder in 1974, (after a playoff with Charles and Jack Newton at Shirley); Bob Byman in 1977; Buddy Allin in 1980; and back-toback titles to Corey Pavin in 1984 (Paraparaumu) and 1985 (Russley).
In between times, a raft of talented Australians got their hands on the trophy. They included Billy Dunk (72, 75), Bob Shearer (78, 81), the resplendent Stewart Ginn (78), Terry Gale (82), Ian Baker-Finch (83), Rodger Davis (86, 91) and Ian Stanley (88), Peter Fowler (93), Craig Jones (94), Lucas Parsons and O'Malley (both in 1995 when a change of dates resulted in two Open championships in the same year).
Greg Turner broke a 13-year drought since a Kiwi had triumphed in their own championship, winning the Open at Paraparaumu in 1989. The links course on the Kapiti Coast has proved a happy hunting ground for New Zealanders in the 90s with Grant Waite winning there in 1992 and Michael Long in 1996 before Turner added his second at Middlemore in 1997 by seven shots.
Matthew Lane at Formosa extended the winning New Zealand run in 1998 when the young Wellingtonian shot 64 in the final round to sweep past the field. The Kiwi run continued with Michael Campbell’s late charge to beat Craig Perks at Paraparaumu Beach in 2000.
Another New Zealander, David Smail picked up his first Tour victory at The Grange in 2001, before Aussie Craig Parry pipped Campbell and Steve Alker at Paraparaumu in 2002 – the year of the Tiger – when the tournament attracted Tiger Woods while he was in the prime as world number one, and in his first tournament played outside of USA since the 911 tragedy.
2003 proved a breakthrough victory for Dunedin-based Mahal Pearce, a former leading Amateur, who had struggled to make a name for himself until his very consistent performance at Middlemore, even allowing the luxury of double-bogey on the final hole to win by two shots.
Another young Kiwi almost made it the perfect send-off for Sir Bob Charles in his final New Zealand Open 50 years after his first win, when Brad Heaven attempted to emulate Sir Bob’s feat of winning the event as an amateur in 2004 at The Grange. He was pipped by one shot from wily Australian Terry Price.
History was made in 2005 when the New Zealand Open was cosanctioned with the European Tour and Australasian PGA Tour, with Sweden’s Niclas Fasth claiming the trophy and the lion’s share of the record NZ$1.5 million on the second playoff hole with England’s Miles Tunnicliff.
Gulf Harbour Country Club on Auckland’s Whangaparaoa Peninsula hosted the event again in 2006 when Australian Nathan Green took advantage of fine conditions early on the final day to jump from six shots back to claim the title.
In 2007 the event moved to Queenstown for the first time – and has since become the home of the Open, with the 100th New Zealand Open in 2019 also the 10th time he has been hosted in the tourist mecca.
After three years co-sanctioned with the European Tour, the Open moved dates again to early in the year, skipping 2008 to move to a new co-sanctioning arrangement with the then Nationwide Tour, the development tour of the USPGA.
It was also the first time it had been played at the private course of The Hills, owned by colourful jewelry magnate, Sir Michael Hills. American Alex Prugh won in 2009 to move on to the lucrative PGA Tour, and compatriot Bobby Gates was successful in 2010.
Christchurch’s Clearwater Resort hosted the 2011 event where Australian Brad Kennedy prevailed on the first extra hole of a threeway playoff.
Australian Jake Higginbottom became the first amateur since Bob Charles 56 years earlier to claim the Bledisloe Cup at Clearwater in 2012 to complete the contract with the USPGA.
There was no event in 2013 as it changed dates again back to early in the year, with a return to Queenstown and a bold new initiative to move to a pro-am format based on successful events like the Dunhill Links on the European Tour and the AT&T on the USPGA. This meant two courses were required to handle the additional numbers, run at The Hills and its neighbour Millbrook Resort, and won by Australian Dimitrios Papadatos.
This new format continued to grow in popularity with amateurs, while the professionals also fell in love with the more relaxed format, superb courses and an annual visit to the stunning surrounds of Queenstown.
Australian Jordan Zunic prevailed in 2015, and compatriot Matthew Griffin in 2016 ahead of Japan’s Hideto Tanihara, one of a number of high-ranking Asian players attracted to the tournament with organisers striking relationships with both the Asian and Japan Tours.
Auckland’s Michael Hendry broke a 13-year gap since a Kiwi won the Bledisloe Cup with his victory on the first extra hole at Millbrook Resort in 2017, in front of a packed gallery around the scenic, watered 18th hole.
Australia’s Daniel Nisbet took advantage of benign conditions to fire a 27-under par to not only win but also break Kel Nagle’s tournament low score by one shot. It also marked an official co-sanction arrangement with the Asian Tour as well as a formal partnership with the Japan Golf Tour, while the success of the unique format resulted in prizemoney reaching NZ$1.25 million to set-up an ideal venue and infrastructure to celebrate the 100th New Zealand Open in 2019.
(T-B) Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club second hole. Michael Campbell sinks an eagle putt on the second play off hole to beat Craig Perks also of New Zealand in the New Zealand Open at the Paraparaumu Golf Club, Wellington, New Zealand. Credit: Nick Wilson ALLSPORT
Michael Hendry celebrates his win during day four of the New Zealand Open at Millbrook Resort on March 12, 2017 in Queenstown, New Zealand.