Golf: Strong New Zealand contingent to contest PGA

Michael Hendry.
Michael Hendry.
The New Zealand PGA has attracted a strong local field with a home-country victory a distinct possibility.

Defending champion Michael Hendry will compete at The Hills at the end of next month after having a stellar 2012 season, winning a further three titles after last year's victory.

Hendry was able to rack up several top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour of Australasia and the OneAsia Tour as well as secure his card on the lucrative 2013 Japan Tour after a top-30 finish at qualifying school.

The majority of New Zealand's best golfers will be in Queenstown from February 28 to March 3.

This will include three former champions in 2009 winner Steven Alker, 1984 champion Greg Turner and Simon Owen, who won in 1978.

Last year's runner-up, Mark Brown, who finished a creditable fifth on the Australasia Order of Merit, will be looking to go one better this year.

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

Tournament director Michael Glading said the unique celebrity pro-amateur format has helped reel in the top home talent.

''The tournament has a unique feel to it, and is clearly one that the majority of pros enjoy,'' he said.

''The majesty of Queenstown, and The Hills in particular is a strong drawcard, and we are really delighted to have all of our top players other than [Michael] Campbell and [Danny] Lee come and join us this year.''

Alker finished 2012 in fine form with a top-five finish at the Chile Classic on the Web.com Tour and had a top-20 finish at The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Also turning heads last year was Queenstown's Greg Turner when he surprised everyone by dusting his clubs after almost a decade in retirement to play the Harewood Open.

He then lined up at the NZ Open at Clearwater and defied all the odds when he made the cut, a decade after he last contested the event.