Call for PGA event support

Former All Black coach and New Zealand PGA Championship tournament director John Hart is calling on the region's business community to provide support before next year's tournament.

Speaking at the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce's annual Christmas lunch last week, Mr Hart asked business leaders to promote next year's PGA Championship, as that was something that had been lacking before this year's inaugural tournament in March.

Promotion for that tournament began in December 2011, which was too late and resulted in the tournament drawing insufficient crowd numbers, he said.

''We were a bunch of novices focused on creating an event and we looked internally on running a good tournament.

''We didn't engage with Queenstown and the Otago region and didn't get the crowds as a result.''

The aim for organisers of next year's event, promotion for which began soon after this year's event, and in following years was to promote the event as one the best golf tournament experiences in the world, including focusing on the Asian market, he said.

''We don't want to be the biggest because we can never be that, but we want to be a tournament where we can offer an experience.''

The tournament was never likely to generate a profit, so organisers counted on gate sales to break even and that was where he asked for help to ''achieve the dream''.

Mr Hart was inspired by the Dunhill Classic on the European Tour, which he attended as a celebrity guest some years ago, and said he hoped The Hills-hosted event would follow a similar path.

For this to happen, the number of amateur guests would need to double; and the Millbrook and Jack's Point courses would need to be used along with The Hills; and the format would need to change, amateurs and professionals pairing up for the first three days of play before splitting for the business end of the championship.

The tournament's directors would announce the names of some of those attending the event soon, including a celebrity from China, a Japanese golf pro with a world ranking of 100 and a celebrity in the form of a rugby union halfback to match with former All Black Justin Marshall.

The other half in the ''battle of the halfback'' would be announced next week, Mr Hart said.

It was announced recently three-time United States Open winner Hale Irwin would headline the professional golf field and Mr Hart said he expected Hale would be paired with New Zealand golfing great Sir Bob Charles.

Sir Bob had been involved in attracting Irwin to the tournament, he said.

Other tournament guests confirmed are Prime Minister John Key, former cricketers Mark Richardson and Sir Ian Botham and New Zealand's golf golden girl, Lydia Ko.

The tournament will run from February 29 to March 2.


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