Golf: US great expected to be drawcard at The Hills

Hale Irwin. REUTERS/Jamie Rhodes
Hale Irwin. REUTERS/Jamie Rhodes
The New Zealand PGA Championship has secured its biggest golfing name yet in three-time US Open winner Hale Irwin.

It was yesterday confirmed Irwin had agreed to play at The Hills in February after being convinced to come by New Zealand's greatest golfer, Sir Bob Charles.

Tournament director Michael Glading said Charles ''planted the seed'' before this year's inaugural tournament, but Irwin was unable to make it due to other commitments.

''As always, it's a matter of tapping in to your contacts. It was a couple of words in the ear at the right time.''

Irwin's career has spanned more than four decades and includes wins in three majors and 20 PGA Tour events.

He is the most successful player in Champions Tour (50-plus) history with 208 top-10 finishes, including 45 wins.

Since turning 65 in 2010, Irwin has shot his age or better on seven occasions in Champions Tour events.

Glading hopes Irwin will not only draw fans, but other golfers of his calibre to Queenstown.

''First and foremost you look for their pedigree and he certainly has that. They have to really want to come to New Zealand, and he does.

''Hale is a legend of the game and we believe that he will be a major drawcard for the NZ PGA Championship.''

Irwin's son, Steve Irwin, will also take part in the tournament.

''I cherish the opportunity to come to New Zealand to play in the NZ PGA Championship,'' Hale Irwin said in a statement.

''To travel with my son Steve, play golf in Queenstown and then sample some of your renowned fishing and hospitality is too good to miss.''

Other confirmed players in the tournament include English cricketer Sir Ian Botham, world amateur No 1 Lydia Ko and defending champion Michael Hendry.

Tournament directors had cast their net for a Hollywood star to play in the pro-am associated with the tournament but had yet to land a catch, Glading said.



Golfing great

• Age: 67
• Majors: Won three US Opens (1974, 1979, 1990)
• PGA Tour wins: 20
• Champions Tour wins: 45
• Ryder Cup: 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1991
• Inducted into World Golf Hall of Fame: 1992.

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