Golf: Zhang heading Chinese quartet at The Hills

Chinese golfer Zhang Xinjun will be joined by three compatriots when he returns to New Zealand to compete in the PGA Championship at The Hills later this month.

Zhang (25) shot a closing 67 to finish 25th last year when he was the only Chinese player in the field.

This year, he will be joined by Kevin Huang Wenyi (30), Indiana University graduate Henry Han Ren (24) and Li Haotong (17) at the PGA Tour of Australasia event, which this year marks the centenary of the PGA of New Zealand.

Toshinori Muto, who won his fifth Japan Golf Tour title at last year's Kansai Open, Kang Kyung-nam, third on last year's Korean Tour money list, Angelo Que, a three-time Asian Tour winner from the Philippines, and Michael Tran, of Vietnam, are among other Asian golfers signed up for the Arrowtown tournament.

In his rookie season in 2011, Zhang finished 13th at the WGCHSBC Champions tournament and teamed with Liang Wenchong in the World Cup.

Last year, he followed his NZ PGA debut with two wins on the China PGA Championship Tour.

''I really enjoyed myself in Queenstown,'' he said in a statement.

''The Hills is the most beautiful course I've played on, so I know the other players from China and around Asia will really enjoy competing there this year. It's truly stunning, like a postcard.

''The pro-am format is really interesting for me because you meet famous sportsmen and businessmen. It will be fun going back there with my team-mates.''

Australian Brendan Jones, third in last year's Japan Golf Tour money list and a 12-time winner in Japan, is the highest-ranked player in the field.

New Zealand's Michael Hendry will defend his title after becoming the first winner under the new celebrity pro-am format, while there will be interest in Mark Brown, who recently qualified for the British Open.

English cricket great Sir Ian Botham and former Wallabies halfback George Gregan will appear as ''celebrity players''.

Former All Black Justin Marshall, who partnered Jones last year, former Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones and teenage golfing prodigy Lydia Ko, the world's top-ranked women's amateur, are among the amateurs appearing for a second time.

Steven Alker, the 2009 winner, will be back after missing the event last year, when he went on to post a top-20 finish at the British Open.

Other top Kiwis who will play include David Smail, Ryan Fox, Gareth Paddison, Josh Geary, Brad Shilton, Phil Tataurangi, Richard Lee and Perth-based Michael Long, while three-time US Open champion Hale Irwin is also in the field.

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