From tomorrow, Sir Michael Hill's championship golf course,
The Hills, will be the place to be during the 2013 NZ PGA
Pro-Am, which has attracted 11 of the top 200 professional
golfers in the world along with some top home-grown talent -
and a few fair dinkum amateurs along for the ride. Ahead of
tomorrow's first round and Friday's amateurs' seeding round,
Olivia Caldwell takes a look at the field.
Internationals to watch
Hale Irwin (US)
Three-time US Open winner - need we say more?Irwin is in the
golf Hall of Fame after showing he can compete with the best
of them for more than four decades.
His achievements include three majors, 20 PGA Tour and 45
Champions Tour events and 208 top-10 finishes (45 wins, 43
second placings and 23 thirds).
At 67, Irwin says his golf isn't getting any better, but the
friendly American still has plenty to offer and a competitive
streak that has him chasing ''first prize'', he said when he
arrived off the plane on Monday.
Toshinori Muto (Japan)
The 34-year-old had a strong 2012, picking up six top 10
finishes on the Japan Tour, including victory at the Kansai
Open Golf Championship, his fifth career title on the tour.
His season had him climb to 103 in world golf rankings and he
is described as one of the best shot makers on the Japan
If he doesn't start strong this week, you needn't panic, Muto
has become a bit of a specialist at come-from behind
victories as three of his five tour titles have been secured
after trailing heading into the final day.
Brendan Jones (NSW)
The highest ranked golfer at the tournament at 82 in the
world, this likeable Australian is the pick of the crop.
Jones bowed out earlier than he would have hoped last year
after also being hot favourite and so has come back with a
purpose and a point to prove in New Zealand.
Jones has 14 professional wins and 12 Japan Tour wins.
Jake Higginbottom (NSW)
Fellow New South Welshman, Higginbottom hit headlines late
last year when he became the first amateur in more than 50
years to win the New Zealand Open and pipped some of New
Zealand's finest to do so.
He has since turned professional and, at only 19 years of
age, expectations are high for him to be the next big thing
in Australian golf.
Brody Ninyette (WA)
If a New Zealander doesn't win this championship, this
24-year-old would be the next best thing.
Last year, this quiet achiever took everyone by surprise when
he took the lead on day two and went into the final round
with fellow Australian Andrew Martin.
Ninyette ended up 10 under par, six behind the winner.
Through winning last year's tournament, Hendry created the
Newspaper fairytale. The North Shore golfer sat in the
background for the first two days of the tournament last year
before taking the lead on day four only to give up a few
shots on what everyone will remember as the dreaded 16th hole
for him, and the lucky fluke hole for Don Cheadle's
Luckily for Hendry, he kept his cool and took the tournament
10 under par.
Since that win, he has a strong 2012 season where he went on
to win three titles and a number of top 10 finishes on the
PGA Tour of Australasia and the OneAsia Tour. The NZPGA and
winning the Indonesian Open 2010 are two of Hendry's career
highlights to date.
Hendry has secured his card on the 2013 Japan Tour as well.
Brown finished second at last year's tournament, fourth at
November's New Zealand Open, finished fifth on the
Australasian PGA Tour's order of merit last year.
If you haven't caught the drift yet, this man is never far
off the winning margin.
After losing his European tour card in 2011, he has produced
some solid performances and will play in the Australian PGA
and OneAsia tours this year.
Brown thrives when playing in New Zealand and is one of our
best hopes for a home champion.
You need no other reason to watch this golfer other than he's
local. A Dunedin resident, Pearce has played at The Hills on
He and Hendry were the best-placed Kiwis after Richard Lee at
the New Zealand Open last year as they finished in a share of
10th at even par. The 35-year-old has been on the scene a
while and after turning professional in 2000 he was the last
Kiwi to win the New Zealand Open, an entire decade ago in
He is currently on the OneAsia tour and tour of Australasia.
Son of All Black great Grant Fox, this Fox is also a
professional in his own right.
Overshadowed by Hendry's win last year, Fox (24) came out of
nowhere to grab fourth spot overall, a feat he was pleased
with at the time.
The big-hitting Aucklander performed strongly at last year's
New Zealand Open and is fast-tracking to professional status.
He has spent the past two years as a fulltime rookie golfer
playing in amateur tournaments all over the world and
although he is not a heavy favourite this week, he will be
looking to better his 27th amateur world standing.
Another great local face, the 50-year-old is back in the game
after a 10-year hiatus.
Turner's surprise return came at last year's Harewood Open
and then the New Zealand golf Open in Christchurch, where he
made the cut and played four rounds.
He is the former winner of the PGA nearly 20 years ago, in
1984, won the New Zealand Open in 1989 and 1997 and, after
calling it a day in 2003, he didn't play for three years.
After retiring from tournament golf, Turner set up a golf
course design and corporate hospitality business. Born in
Dunedin and living in Queenstown, he is as local as you get.
Stealing the limelight
If you thought last year's tournament was the ''Ko show'',
this one is bound to be even more so.
This talented 15-year-old has taken the golfing world by
storm and it is no wonder the entire country is as proud as
they would be of a little sister.
Ko is just returning from Thailand, where she tied for 14th
place at the LPGA event as the world's No 1 amateur.
Ko is the world's top-ranked amateur and holder of the US
amateur championship. Last year, she became the youngest
player to win an LPGA event as well as the first amateur to
win one for 43 years, and won the New Zealand Open in her
She was only 12 when she made her debut at the New Zealand
Open and finished in seventh place. Invited celebrity this
year, she is assured to play right through to Sunday.
Ko will tee off on Friday at Millbrook with the amateurs and
how the modest schoolgirl performs in the professional men's
game will be one of the star attractions.
Sir Ian Botham
The outspoken cricket commentator has arrived at just the
right time to see his former English side most likely have
some success in Queenstown and Dunedin.
But as far as this article is concerned, he is here for the
A sporting natural, Botham has also played the Dunhill Links
Championship pro-amateur tournament, the same tournament
organisers John hart and Michael Glading modelled this one
To have a prime minister playing and endorsing a sport event
has got to be good for the game.
Like his policies or not, there is no denying the
''entertainment factor'' of the PM with a golf club.
Nick Farr-Jones & George Gregan
These former Wallabies sit in category A - Aussies that Kiwis
love to loathe. Brilliant on the rugby field, talkative off
it, they are everything a Kiwi doesn't want in a competitor.
The battle between halfbacks Gregan and former All Black and
Queenstown resident Justin Marshall has been talked up and it
will be interesting to see if these two are paired with two
leading golf professionals this Saturday.
Sir Michael Hill
What would a golf tournament be without Sir M's colourful
Sir Bob Charles
Sir Bob Charles.
Perhaps the nicest man in golf, or even in sport? The
76-year-old was competing at top level at the New Zealand
Open not so long ago at this same venue and he cannot speak
highly enough of the course.
''It's this area, this place, the Wakatipu Basin, Millbrook,
The Hills - they're all close to my heart and I'm just really
''It is our best golf course in New Zealand.
''Without a doubt, this is the best golf course in the world
for viewing, for spectating a golf tournament.''
As good as the male v female battle of Ko and the pros will
be, I am just as interested in what this seasoned left-hander
will dish up.