(L to R) Sir Michael Hill, John Hart and Prime Minisher John Key at the NZPGA Pro Am Championship 2013 Announcement, Westpac Building, Auckland. Photo by William Booth/photosport.co.nz
The combining of the New Zealand Open and Queenstown's pro-am
tournament is being called a ''new dawn'' for the sport.
The 106-year-old championship returns to the Wakatipu in
February 2014 and, in a world first for an open, will include
the pro-am, and will be played at two courses, jeweller Sir
Michael Hill's private course The Hills, near Arrowtown, and
The NZ Open, held in Christchurch the past two years, will
run simultaneously with Queenstown's established pro-am
tournament which has previously attracted sports stars such
as Sir Ian Botham and business heavyweights.
The pro-am's previous partner event, the NZ PGA Championship,
will no longer be in Queenstown and a new date and venue is
still to be decided.
The new arrangement comes after agreement between NZ Golf, NZ
PGA and Michael Hill Tournaments Ltd (MHTL) to pool resources
to create one super tournament.
Under the agreement, NZ Golf has licenced MHTL to organise
and take full responsibility for funding, presenting and
underwriting it for three years.
Minister of Sport Murray McCully yesterday announced a
$900,000 injection from the Government's Major Events
Development Fund for 2014. It has also attracted a major new
sponsor, BMW, and the prize-money pool has increased from
$500,000 for last year's NZ Open to a minimum of $850,000.
Chief executive Dean Murphy said NZ Golf had been very
conscious of retaining the traditional elements of the
historic NZ Open.
''There will be traditionalists who'll think [the combination
of open and pro-am] is less than ideal but ... we'd encourage
people to think positively about this and think about how we
can be unique and how we can take the game forward in New
''It's exciting, it's something new and fresh and this is a
growth strategy ... it's about taking the game forward and
it's a new dawn.''
MHLT organising committee member and Queenstown-based ex-golf
pro Greg Turner said NZ Golf and the NZ PGA should be thanked
for a courageous decision.
''Those a bit nervous about this departure from the tradition
of the NZ Open, I'd encourage you to be enthusiastic.''
Turner said there used to be a time when NZ could attract the
world's best golfers on the promise of $50,000 prizemoney and
a fishing trip ''but times have changed''.
''We need to have an internationally significant event - this
provides our best opportunity,'' Turner said.
It was also announced yesterday the 2014 NZ Open will have an
association with the lucrative Japan Golf Tour, the
third-richest in the world.
The tie-up will see 15 Japan Tour pros entered in the NZ Open
and the NZ Open winner or highest-performing player not
already on the Japan Tour will get entry to three of its
Auckland businessman John Hart, MHTL's organising committee
chairman, said the Japan Tour deal was a landmark agreement
and a ''step forward in the internationalisation'' of the NZ
''One of the key elements in attracting their interest was
the pro-am format - it's different to any other event they
have in their tour.''
Hart also said it was great to have the NZ Open back in
Queenstown: ''It brings together the icon tournament in the
icon tourist destination.''
The Hills club boss Emma Hill, the deputy chairman of Michael
Hill Jeweller, said marrying the NZ Open - the country's
premier tournament - with the pro-am was very significant.
''It's huge because it's going to ensure the longevity of the
tournament due to the funding structure, and in turn be of
great benefit to NZ through the business connections.''
Overall the NZ Open will have a minimum field of 132
professionals playing alongside 132 amateurs, almost double
from last year's pro-am.
Hart said the 64 amateur spots reserved for those willing to
pay $10,000 to take part had already been filled.
- Ryan Keen