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Twenty-five golfers last week advanced to the final stage of qualifying for the New Zealand Open championship being held near Arrowtown at the end of the month.
The tier-one event on the PGA Tour of Australasia - expected to be the biggest tournament staged in New Zealand for many years - will be held at The Hills and Millbrook Resort from February 27 to March 2, with a purse of $900,000.
Pre-qualifying events were held across New Zealand last Tuesday at the Royal Auckland Golf Club (Middlemore), Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club, Christchurch Golf Club and Chisholm Park Golf Club, in Dunedin.
Twelve golfers from Royal Auckland advanced, with Bay of Plenty golfer Bailey Smith, who recently won a junior title in Australia, the winner of the event with a 1-under par 71 in the hard and fast conditions.
Waikato representative Denzel Ieremia and Bay of Plenty representative Charlie Hillier, who recently won the North Island Under-19 Championship, were among the other qualifiers from Middlemore.
Four players finished on 4-over par 76, and Joshua Leitch birdied the first play-off hole to secure the 12th and final place from Royal Auckland.
Wellington No 1 Marc Jennings, who was superb for his province in the Toro NZ Men's Interprovincial at the North Shore Golf Club, won the event at Paraparaumu Beach when he carded a 2-under par 70.
Manawatu players Hayden Ring and Lachie McDonald also advanced with rounds of 73 and 74 respectively. At the Christchurch Golf Club, seven golfers advanced to the final qualifiers in the warm and windy conditions.
Former New Zealand representative Jordan Bakermans won the event on his home course when he carded a 2-under par 70.
He was joined by six others, with four golfers - Jun Hyeong Seok (South Korea), Carl Brooking (P), Jordan Green (Ashburton), Byung Chae Ryu (South Korea) - sneaking in by one shot when they finished on even par 72. At Chisholm Park, three players - Jeremy Hall (67), Michael Smith (69) and Brendan Hodgson (69) - advanced.
The final stage of qualifying will be held at the Omaha Beach Golf Club and Cromwell Golf Club on February 24 and February 25 respectively.
A total of 10 spaces in the final New Zealand Open field will be played for at the final qualifying tournaments.