Hopes for overseas players in golf open

Organisers of the New Zealand Golf Open are "quietly optimistic" there will be an international field, of some description.

Tournament director Michael Glading said the Government was prepared to allow international professionals into New Zealand for the tournament, scheduled for Millbrook Resort, near Arrowtown, between March 31 and April 3, "if players are prepared to self-isolate".

International amateurs would have to make applications to enter the country.

While that was a "big call", Mr Glading said tournament organisers had spoken to a few players, "and we haven’t had as bad a response as we thought".

That said, a lot would depend on the terms of self-isolation — critically, if they would be permitted to practise.

Mr Glading said he had engaged the Ministry of Health and Government on that, using the example of professional rugby teams, who, while MIQ was in play, were able to come to New Zealand, be isolated, but train under supervision, before returning to quarantine facilities.

"I’m waiting to hear the outcome to that. But if — and I use ‘if’ in capitals — we are able to achieve that, then I’ll be quietly confident that we would be able to get a reasonable international field.

Mr Glading said the number of professionals could be anywhere from 20 to 50, depending on isolation requirements.

However, organisers were heartened by New Zealand professionals’ willingness to play in the tournament — even if it was a domestic-only field.

"To be honest with you, that was test number one, because if you went out to the top pros and more than half of them said, ‘Look, no, I don’t want to play in that’, it would have been dead then.

"The fact that the likes of Ryan Fox and Josh Geary and Mike Hendry and all these guys were saying, ‘No, no, I want to play regardless’, that was a massive boost."

Support from key sponsors, including Millbrook Resort and Sky Sport was also unwavering, particularly given the "easy decision" would have been to cancel the tournament.

Mr Glading said he had a scheduled Zoom meeting with tour partners early next week, ahead of the final committee meeting of the year, and might yet survey players based on three possible, self-isolation scenarios.

 - tracey.roxburgh@odt.co.nz

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