New Zealand Golf Magazine
HILLS PRO-AM PROMISES A CLOSE BATTLE
BY NEVILLE IDOUR
For the first time, the annual Hills Invitational ProAm played at Sir Michael Hill’s Arrowtown course will be a PGA sanctioned event.
This unique 2020 tournament is scheduled for December 19th and 20th and has drawn a very strong field.
Tournament Director, Craig Palmer from The Hills said, “The new qualifying criteria has produced a quality field of 20 players.”
The top 10 on the PGA Order of Merit following the October Charles Tour event in New Plymouth gained automatic entry. “It was also decided to invite the winner of the PGA Club Professional Championship and the winner of the PGA Trainee Championship,” said Palmer.
The OOM qualifiers are Luke Toomey, Kieran Muir, Daniel Hillier, Josh Geary, Harry Bateman, Ryan Chisnall, Michael Hendry, Jordan Loof, Gareth Paddison and Harry Na.
Dongwoo Kang who successfully defended his Club Pro title also booked his place. The Trainee Championship qualifier is the experienced Pieter Zwart.
The remaining spots were invited by The Hills. This year they are defending champion Mark Brown, former winners Queenstown’s James Anstiss, Daniel Pearce, plus Fraser Wilkin, regular Brad Shilton, The Hills’ Craig Palmer, Fraser Maclachlan and Ben Campbell making his comeback from injury and surgery.
The field is full of many former winners and Jennian Homes Charles Tour winners so the battle for the winners’ purse of $10,000 is sure to be intense. With a total purse of $50,000, it sits alongside the Charles Tour purses.
The difference is the field size of 20 compared with 60 plus ties who make the cut at a Charles Tour event. With the forced cancellation of the New Zealand Open, events like this take on more importance, as opportunity is key for aspiring New Zealand professionals.
For this event, recent form is often no indicator. However, Mark Brown, the current titleholder has a good record at The Hills and it would not surprise to see him contend again.
Recent Jennian Homes Charles Tour winners Daniel Hillier, Luke Toomey and Kieran Muir will be hoping to repeat that form. Michael Hendry has been solid rather than spectacular but has two wins on this course to recommend him. Harry Bateman is another former winner with past form at The Hills as is Queenstown’s James Anstiss.
There will also be much interest in the comeback appearance of Ben Campbell on home territory. It has been a long haul for him after corrective surgery on his hip and lower back.
“I have been getting fit and back into practice and playing some rounds. It seems pretty good so I’m hoping for the best” said Campbell.
Whatever the outcome essentially this will still be a fun weekend with 60 Hills club members joining the professionals to make 20 four-man teams in the ProAm format that sits alongside the Pro event.