Alker’s tourney effort to be a family affair

Steven Alker will be sure to listen to his caddy this week.

Alker has his wife, Tanya, carrying his bag as he makes another tilt at the New Zealand Open at Millbrook.

"I got her out of retirement this week," he joked.

"The 2014 US Open, I believe, was the last one.

"We’re having a blast. Just being here and doing this together, and the company we’re in — it’s a nice change of pace," Alker said.

"There’s no golf talk at all, which is kind of a nice change. We have fun out there."

Alker tied for 30th at the Open a year ago after battling ill health at the weekend, and cannot imagine skipping the Arrowtown tournament.

He started the year in fine style with victory at the PGA Champions Tour’s season-opening tournament in Hawaii.

It was his eighth win on the tour and a back-to-back success after winning the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix in November.

His remarkable late-career surge included leading the money list in 2022 and finishing second in 2023.

Meanwhile, another high-profile New Zealand golfer is again missing this week, but could be back at Millbrook before long.

Danny Lee was given something of a serve by Open boss Michael Glading last year for what appeared to be a reluctance to play in his home tournament.

Glading said he had since had a convivial chat to Lee, who was unable to play in Arrowtown this week as he has LIV commitments.

The Open remains steadfast in its refusal to shell out big appearance money for star golfers and is instead focusing on strength in depth and a relationship with the Asian and Japan tours.

"We have some of the top players from the Asian Tour," Glading said.

"Within Japan, with such a changing pro environment, we have seven guys in their 20s where traditionally we have attracted the older Japanese player."

The Open purse has jumped to $2 million after a decade of building its profile.

"There is a level that we are close to achieving. We want to be in the upper level of the Asian Tour, the Japan Tour and the Australasian Tour and I think we are pretty much achieving that."


NZ Open

The facts

Where: Millbrook Resort, Arrowtown.

What: Four rounds, starting today.

Format: Up to 156 amateurs and 156 professionals play alongside each other. Professionals compete for NZ Open title, while pairings play best-ball format for the pro-am championship.

Cut: Top 60 plus ties (professionals), top 40 (pro-am).

Sanctioning: PGA Tour of Australasia and Asian Tour, in partnership with Japan Tour.

Purse: $2 million.

Defending champion: Brendan Jones (Australia).