Golf: Support essential for PGA

At The Hills, near Arrowtown, on Monday, preparing for the New Zealand PGA Championship were (from left) Sir Bob Charles, Hale Irwin and Sir Michael Hill. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
At The Hills, near Arrowtown, on Monday, preparing for the New Zealand PGA Championship were (from left) Sir Bob Charles, Hale Irwin and Sir Michael Hill. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
Organisers of the 2013 NZ PGA Championship being held at The Hills this week say government support and investment are crucial to the future of the tournament.

Prime Minister John Key has signed up to play at The Hills over the weekend, but director John Hart says the weekend will be about proving the tournament's worth and securing future financial support.

Mr Hart said the tournament would be judged not only on the golf, but its ability to draw a crowd, build overseas business-to-business relationships, build Queenstown tourism and build golf tourism in New Zealand.

''We have taken it to another level in terms of creating an event. Crowd support is crucial to the future of the tournament.''

Additional attractions this year include a concert on Saturday, featuring young New Zealand talent Jamie McDell, and a two-day business-oriented round at Millbrook over the weekend.

Mr Hart said the tournament was also about impressing potential business investors and the Government.

His aim was to grow the tournament ''dramatically'' over the next few years and hold a two-course tournament at The Hills and Millbrook where organisers could invite more amateurs to pay and play.

''That's absolutely crucial.

''We have about 18 overseas business people from Japan, Korea and Australasia, all looking at this tournament.''

The talent pool of both celebrities and professional golf for this year's tournament had surpassed last year's and although there were no Hollywood big names, Mr Hart was satisfied with the entry list.

''I think we have a better field of celebrities this year. The extra time we have had is reflected in the nature of the stars we've got.''

The field of golfing professionals boasts 11 of the top 200-ranked players in the world, compared with this year's New Zealand Open, which had two of the top 200.

Lining up this week will be cricketing names in England's Sir Ian Botham and South Africa's Barry Richards, New Zealand golfing great Sir Bob Charles, Olympic rower Mahe Drysdale, former Wallabies Nick Farr-Jones and George Gregan, former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson, Mr Key and the tournament's biggest attraction Lydia Ko.

''Having people like the Prime Minister and Lydia Ko playing as celebrities is huge. Lydia is New Zealand's most outstanding young talent and it is great she can come here after having weeks of serious golf and enjoy it.

''She is the biggest attraction in New Zealand golf and she is simply the biggest attraction we can get right now.''

Mr Hart said there was no need to convince Ko to play in the tournament for the second time. She signed up as soon as she left the 18th hole last year.

''She accepted immediately.

''The PM's excited about playing.''