Golf: Strong Kiwi line-up for Queenstown

A host of former champions will try to reclaim their title at this year's New Zealand PGA Championship in Queenstown starting on February 28.

The majority of the country's best golfers will tee off at The Hills for the PGA Tour of Australasia tournament, raising hopes of another homegrown champion in 2013.

Michael Hendry is returning to defend his title, after becoming the first winner of the event under the new celebrity Pro-Am format last year.

Hendry had a fantastic year in 2012, going on to win another three titles after his victory in Queenstown as well as racking up a number of top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour of Australasia and the OneAsia tour.

He also secured his card on the lucrative 2013 Japan Tour after a top 30 finish at qualifying school.

Another three former champions from New Zealand will join Hendry in the field.

The 2009 winner Steven Alker is back after missing the event last year. Alker finished 2012 in fine form with a top five finish at the Chile Classic on the Web.com Tour.

Earlier in the year, he showed just how good he really is with a top 20 finish at The Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

The 1984 champion Greg Turner is back for a crack at the title. He also lined up in the New Zealand Open at Clearwater in November and surprised everyone when he made the cut.

The other former winner, Simon Owen, who is best remembered for his duel with Jack Nicklaus in the 1978 British Open (where he finished runner-up), makes a rare re-appearance in a professional event, which marks the centenary of the New Zealand PGA.

The 2012 runner-up and former European Tour winner Mark Brown, who finished a creditable fifth on the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit, will be looking to go one better this year.

Other top touring Kiwis who will play this year include David Smail, Ryan Fox, Gareth Paddison, Josh Geary, Brad Shilton and Richard Lee, as well as Perth-based Michael Long.

Throw in Phil Tataurangi, who continues to ply his trade at home during a self-imposed hiatus from the American tournament scene, and Australian Peter Fowler, who many deem to be an honorary Kiwi having lived in Auckland for two decades and there is reason to be optimistic of a winner from New Zealand.