Plans for expanded, three-course tournament

John Hart
John Hart
The inaugural NZ PGA Pro-am Championship brought more than 9000 people through the gates at The Hills over the four-day tournament and organisers have a new three-course format planned for next year.

While the tournament did not attract the crowds of 24,000 to 32,000 at the NZ Open in 2007, 2009 and 2010, organisers of the celebrity format PGA were pleased with the overall success of the week.

The organising committee announced yesterday it would hold the event earlier next year - from February 28 to March 3 - over three courses: The Hills, Jack's Point and Millbrook.

Chairman John Hart said it was a case of striking while the iron was hot.

"We're absolutely thrilled with the way the tournament has gone. I guess the key thing is the feedback we've had from sponsors and the amateurs that have paid to play has been so positive.

"It's given us the confidence to know that we have a format that is going to work and already we are making plans for next year."

He said the organisers hoped to attract more amateur and professional players, and holding the tournament on three courses would help achieve this.

"If we stay at one course, we are limited to 60 amateurs. We would like eventually to get this to 144 amateurs and 144 pros.

"We will be looking for more support from Government and more support from sponsors, because to go to three courses is going to cost a lot more," Hart said, suggesting the new format could cost an extra $1.5 million.

He said the biggest challenge would be to pull the bigger celebrities for next year's tournament, but he was confident the concept would get wider interest from Australia, Asia and the United States.

Hart said the NZPGA would underpin the event, in partnership with Sir Michael Hill, and, unlike the New Zealand Open, the tournament would not be moving from the resort.

 

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