NZ Golf offers insight into Open future

New Zealand Golf, New Zealand golf's controlling body, today held a press conference at the Michael Hill New Zealand Open to discuss the future of the event. It began with a prepared statement from Richard Taylor, the Chairman of the New Zealand Open sub, who indicated that a decision on a venue and a date for the 2011 New Zealand Open would be made in the next few months.

"Currently a number of parties have expressed their interest in hosting the event in 2011 and beyond," said Taylor. "Before we can finalise the venue we obviously have to work with our partners on the arrangements and date of the NZ Open."

Contracts with the Hills Golf Club, the Nationwide Tour and tournament organisers, Tuohy & Associates come to an end with the holing of the final putt on Sunday and from that point there are many balls in the air.

While other venues will be considered there is a general feeling that the momentum the event has built up in this tourist playground would be lost if taken elsewhere. Three years ago the event was on shaky ground after losing considerable money in is few years at Gulf Harbour and the calculated risk of taking the event to the relatively remote Queenstown has paid off. It has managed to turn a profit in that time.

Options being mentioned at present include the Julian Robertson owned Cape Kidnappers facility in Hawkes Bay, used in November for the Kiwi Challenge where Hunter Mahan, Sean O'Hair, Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas fought out a four man 36 hole battle.

There is little doubt that Robertson, a Hedge Fund Management billionaire from New York who built both Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand, has the wherewithal to underwrite the New Zealand Open but the success or otherwise of the event has proven to be more than just that factor.

The Hills Golf Club in Arrowtown has played host to the event for the past three years, the first as an event co-sanctioned with the European Tour and the last two with the Nationwide Tour as the partner to the PGA Tour of Australasia. It is still not out of the equation to play host again although with the current contract up for re-negotiation, revised terms could influence the decision either way.

A return to the European Tour arrangement seems highly unlikely. In the three seasons it was co- sanctioned with the European Tour (two in Auckland and one in Queenstown) the tournament struggled to attract leading European players, but the ongoing issue of finding a mutually acceptable date perhaps the biggest concern in a return to a European Tour affiliation.

The Nationwide Tour may well continue their arrangement but that too will be dependent on the continuation of a similar event in Australia to justify the American contingent making the trip to this part of the world.

The emerging One Asia Tour may also be a factor. The One Asia Tour is rapidly developing into a pathway for the Australasian and Asian players and this event offers a potentially good fit for the event should the Nationwide arrangement come to an end.

The next three months will play a key role as to the direction the event heads. Dates, venues, naming rights sponsors and co-sanctioning arrangements will all play their part in the discussions that will take place in that time.

The New Zealand Open enjoys a long and prestigious history and deserves to retain its significant place in Australasian golf.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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