Novelty of being home wearing off

James Anstiss
James Anstiss
James Anstiss has enjoyed spending plenty of time in his home town over the past 12 months.

But the Queenstown golfer is ready to see the world again.

Anstiss is among the 28-strong elite field teeing off today at the $150,000 Millbrook Classic, a tournament created to fill the gap left by the cancelled New Zealand Open and give Kiwi professionals a chance to chase a decent purse.

It is a welcome opportunity for the likes of Anstiss (26), who has been starved of major competitive golf.

"I haven’t played a four-round event for over 12 months, I think," he said.

"I played a 36-hole event up at Omaha last weekend, and I played The Hills Pro-Am back in December, but that’s basically been it."

One of his last major events was nearly a whopper.

Anstiss finished second at the Victorian PGA on the Moonah Links course in February 2021 for one of the best days of his professional career.

He has been working in a sales role for Wellington-based company SaferMe but still playing golf every day, although he knows all the practice in the world cannot replicate the pressures of tournament golf.

"There is a bit of rust. It will still be kind of a foreign feeling this weekend.

"The biggest challenge I found in the last two events was just having that freedom — the freedom to swing, the freedom of decision making.

"I used to do that week-in, week-out when I was playing fulltime. I was just so used to dealing with the pressure and the anxiety that comes with competing, so it was second nature.

"Now it can be a bit harder to get on a roll and not sort of think about the consequences of where the golf ball could go."

Nevertheless, Anstiss sets high standards for himself and sees no reason why he should not be targeting a strong performance this weekend.

He knows Millbrook and the conditions like the back of his hand, and feels he has been playing some good golf.

Getting the chance to play in this one-off tournament — with New Zealand No 1 Ryan Fox in the field — was a nice way to end the summer, Anstiss said.

"It’s absolutely fantastic, because the last 24 months have been pretty tough for Kiwi golfers, and we obviously haven’t been able to get international players here for the Open.

"The organisers have really shown their support for us.

"It’s really cool to see Foxy here. He’s a guy you look up to, and he’s a great guy who really helps out the Kiwi golfers.

"He’s a classic Kiwi guy who is really laidback and easy to get along with, and it’s really cool to have him back here for an event, because he’s at the level so many of us want to be at."

Anstiss has a couple of events in the coming weeks but otherwise does not know exactly what his golfing future holds as he has lost his PGA Latinoamerica status and there are no opportunities in Asia.

He is looking at heading to Europe for a while, as much to chase life experience as a little white ball.

"I think I will do some work over there for the summer and sort of figure out what I want to do with my life.

"I’ve been a little frustrated with the holding pattern in golf. Unless you’re playing competitively, and regularly, it’s really hard to progress, and the pandemic hasn’t helped with that.

"So it’s time for me to venture out and see what is out there."

The Millbrook Classic has a 28-strong field — 26 professionals and two elite amateur, each paired with a paying amateur in a pro-am format.

It is played over 36 holes, both rounds on the new Coronet course.

Fox will start as the favourite but should be pushed by Josh Geary, Mark Brown, Gareth Paddison, Ben Campbell, Tae Koh and Harry Bateman, among others.

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