For the men they begin with a new PGA Tour of Australasia event in Auckland, the Rebel Sport Masters at the Wainui Golf Club north of Auckland, which despite its relatively low prizemoney ($100,000) has attracted many of New Zealand’s best including the current New Zealand Open Champion Michael Hendry and the runner-up in that same event last March, Ben Campbell.
New Zealand’s second highest ranked player, Ryan Fox, will also play the event
Wainui Golf Club was opened in 2016 and is part of a land-swap deal with the former Peninsula Golf Club which is now a residential development.
Three weeks later the $650,000 Oates Victorian Open will be played at its now regular venue, the 13th Beach Golf Club on the Bellarine Peninsula.
The event combines with the Women’s Victorian Open, both events played concurrently under a unique format but one which has proved very successful since moving from the sand-belt course, Spring Valley, in 2013.
The PGA Tour of Australasia then moves west to Perth for the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth Match Play in a format introduced last year involving 54 holes of stroke-play followed by a final round where only the leading twenty four players compete against each other in a knockout format over six holes.
The event, which begins on February 11th at the Lake Karrinyup Golf Club, is not only a PGA Tour of Australasia event it is also on the European and Asian Tour schedules and carries prizemoney of $1,750,000.
Two weeks after the Perth event the Coca Cola Queensland PGA Championship is played at the City Golf Club in the regional Queensland city of Toowoomba where it has been played since 2009 with the exception of 2011.
New Zealander Daniel Pearce will defend his title in the $125,000 event whose winner’s list includes major champions Greg Norman, Ian Baker Finch and David Graham, legendary Australian Peter Senior and more recently PGA Tour winners, Nathan Green, Steven Bowditch and Andre Stolz.
From Toowoomba the PGA Tour of Australasia moves across the Tasman to Palmerston North in New Zealand where the NZ$125,000 Horizon Golf New Zealand PGA Championship is played at the Manawatu Golf Club’s Hokowhitu Course.
The event has an honours roll which includes some of Australasia’s best including Peter Thomson, Kel Nagle, Frank Phillips, Bruce Crampton, Sir Bob Charles, John Lister, Frank Nobilo, Greg Turner, Graham Marsh and Japanese star Jumbo Ozaki who won his only event outside of Japan when successful in 1972.
West Australian Jarryd Felton will defend the title he won last year in a playoff over Josh Younger and Ben Campbell.
From Palmerston North golfers head south to Queenstown to the event which has become one of the must play tournaments on the Australasian Tour, the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open at the Millbrook Resort and Hills Golf Club near Arrowtown twenty minutes from New Zealand’s leisure playground of Queenstown.
The event which became a pro-am format in 2014, carries prizemoney of $NZ1 million and while not the highest purse on the PGA Tour of Australasia the event has proven extremely popular with professionals amateurs, celebrities and public as the AT&T Pebble Links style format has caught the imagination of the golfing world.
The ISPS Handa New Zealand Open has built an arrangement with the Japan Tour in recent years and, while not full sanctioning, it has assisted in building the profile of the event internationally. Several of Japan’s leading players have ventured to New Zealand in recent years including Hideto Tanihara who finish runner-up to Matthew Griffin in 2016.
In 2018 the Asian Tour becomes an official sanctioning partner with the PGA Tour of Australasia in the event providing an even greater viewing audience for the event and further establishing the event as one of the regions' best.
Golf Tourism in New Zealand is currently on an all-time high, due in no small way to the exposure the Queenstown region has received from the televised coverage of the event proving that elite players and large purses are not the only ingredients for the success of an event and the benefits it offers.
Michael Hendry defends the title he won in a playoff over Ben Campbell and Brad Kennedy last March.
Two months later the West Australian PGA Championship is scheduled for the Kalgoorlie Golf Course but it is the first two months of the year which will keep many of Australasia’s leading male professionals well and truly occupied.
For the women the year starts with a pro-am in Ballarat on February followed by the dual staging of the Men’s and Women’s Oates Victorian Open.
The Women’s Victorian Open carries a purse of $650,000 and is jointly sanctioned between the ALPG and Ladies European Tours.
England’s Mel Reid will defend the title she won in a playoff over Germany’s Sandra Gal.
From Victoria the ALPG heads to Canberra for the revamped Actew AGL Classic at the Royal Canberra Golf Club.
Last played in 2012, the ActewAGL Classic has been resurrected and while at this stage only a $150,000 event, to have the tournament back on the schedule is a great boost for the ALPG who will jointly sanction the event with the Ladies European Tour.
That it is played at one of Australia’s better layouts does not hurt the promotion of the event either.
The LPGA Tour hits Australia to following week when the 2018 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open is played at the Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide, the third year the event has been played in the city but the first time at the Kooyonga Golf Club.
The championship, jointly sanctioned with the ALPG (Australia), has seen some of the game’s greatest ever as winners including Annika Sorenstam, Laura Davies, Karrie Webb, Yani Tseng, Lydia Ko and Jiyai Shin with Korea’s Ha Na Jang the defending champion in 2018.
Current world number one, So Yeon Ryu, has already committed to the event, ensuring that this year’s field could well be one of the strongest in recent history.
Following the Women’s Open the ALPG once again joins forces with the Ladies European Tour for the first of two new events in the Coffs Harbour region beginning with the $350,000 Australian Ladies Classic Bonville at the highly regarded Bonville Golf Resort
The ALC Bonville is expected to secure a good field off the back of the Australian Open as although many of those playing in Adelaide will have moved to Asia for the first of two LPGA Tour events there, there will be a group of highly credentialed players likely to tee it up at Bonville.
The ALC Bonville is scheduled to be held in Coffs Harbour for the next five years.
The ALPG and Ladies European Tours stay in the Coffs Harbour region but move to the Coffs Harbour Golf Club for the following week’s $150,000 New South Wales Women’s Open which is scheduled to be played in Coffs Harbour just once before moving to other venues in regional NSW in future years.
The ALPG finishes off its season with two or three pro ams in Queensland and NSW but 2018 promises to be one of its busiest years in recent memory.
JAMIE GLAZIER CREATING POSITIVE MEMORIES
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