Former champion Mahal Pearce hopes the New Zealand Open
will regain its lustre when it returns to The Hills next year.
Pearce is pleased the Open looks set for a bright future as
it gets a beefed-up purse, an ideal late-summer window, a
co-hosting arrangement with Millbrook, a link with the Japan
Tour and an accompanying pro-am tournament.
''It's nice to go back to The Hills,'' the 2003 Open champion
from Dunedin said yesterday.
''It's on our back door, obviously. And that's where the
money will be coming from. Having Millbrook as well breaks it
''The Open has gone through some ups and downs. I think the
powers-that-be have got together and come up with the right
''New Zealand Golf has lost a lot of money on the Open. I
hope this will free them up to take care of the amateur and
grassroots side of the game over the next few years.''
The first three Opens at The Hills (2007, 2009 and 2010) won
rave reviews, but the tournament slipped back when it was
shifted to Clearwater, on the outskirts of Christchurch.
Pearce (35) is optimistic a purse which could nudge $1
million, as well as the stunning scenery, will attract a
''You will get a tier of really good players lining up.
World-class guys like Michael Hendry will definitely want to
''It's a good time of year, as well. It should attract some
very good golfers, especially Asian tour guys who might be
able to fit it in.''
Fifteen leading Japan Tour players will enter the Open, and
the tournament winner will get entry into three of Japan's
most lucrative events.
That was a chance to tap into a ''massive'' market, Pearce
said, but he was pleased the Open would not have a full
co-sanctioning agreement with Japan.
''I still think the Open is a New Zealand event and you want
as many New Zealanders playing in it as possible.''
Embracing a pro-am format as part of the tournament made
sense, he said. It was an obvious method to inject some more
cash into the event, and had worked well with the New Zealand
PGA at The Hills.
Pearce finds it hard to believe 10 years have passed since
his stunning breakthrough win in the New Zealand Open at
He has played little golf recently because he has been
recovering from a broken foot sustained in a festival
football game. He will play in the Queensland Open and the
$200,000 Jeep pro-am on the Gold Coast next month, then
rejoin the Australian Tour in October.