Tour News

Sydneysider wins New Zealand Open prize

(Photo: Bruce Young)
37 year old 16 handicapper from the Bay View Golf Club in Sydney's Mona Vale, Darren Johns, is set for the greatest week of his golfing life, in fact it might well be one of the highlights of his life full stop.

The Sydney based Financial Planner who runs his own company, Align Financial, on the Northern Beaches of Sydney could not believe his luck when he was informed by Michael Hill's representative in Australia that he had won the competition for a spot in the New Zealand Open Pro Am Championship, jointly run by www.iseekgolf.com and Michael Hill Jewellers.

He will become one of several players Michael Hill Jewellers has sponsored into the event through their involvement as providers of the host venue.

Darren is a member of iseekgolf and it was through their regular weekly newsletter that he was made aware of the opportunity to play in the now AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am style New Zealand Open near Queenstown in the Central Otago region of New Zealand's South Island.

The event, which gets underway on February 27th, will utilise the Hills Golf Club and Millbrook Resort golfing layouts in rotation over the opening 36 holes before the event returns to the Hills for the final 36 holes.

Darren is guaranteed at least one round at each of the courses and if he and his professional partner (yet to be appointed) do well enough and make it into the top 35 teams they will play at least one more round at the Hills and if they make it into the top ten teams by Saturday evening they will play all four rounds.

The value of the prize including trans Tasman airfares is some $14,000 with many of the local amateurs in the pro am field dishing out $NZ10,000 for the privilege of playing the increasingly popular format.

While all of this is going on the time honoured title of the New Zealand Open is up for grabs for the professionals and leading invited amateurs.

Not only will Darren get to mix of with a field of Australasian Tour professionals he also will be able to rub shoulders with the likes of Ricky Ponting, Allan Border and Wendell Sailor, amongst other sporting and entertainment celebrities.

For Darren it will be not only his first trip to Queenstown but to the South Island so is excited by the prospect.

Darren plays most Wednesday afternoons with friends at Bay View Golf Club in a daylight saving competition at present but with two kids, a business and his wife Belinda he gets little chance to play the weekends.

"My arrangement with Belinda is that I can play as much golf as I like as long as it is during office hours," he joked.

As part of his entry Darren was required to describe his most memorable golfing moment. "That is a story I have told on many occasions. When my oldest son Owen turned seven years old I took him up to the Par 3 Terrey Hills Golf Course for him to play golf for the first time and during the hit we had together I was lucky enough to record my first and only hole in one.

"When we arrived home I said to Owen to tell mummy what daddy had today. He went on to say that I had a hole in one but that I had only had the one. Now I had never come close to having one and was very excited but clearly my seven year old obviously expected a bit more of me."

To cap off what is already appearing to be an outstanding week, Darren's wife Belinda turns 40 a few days earlier so it will be double celebration for the pair. "I'm not sure she yet knows how much golf is involved but I am sure she will love her time in Queenstown either way. I originally thought it was just the chance to play the pre event pro am but when I found out the full details I was amazed."

Belinda needn't worry. The Hilton Hotel in Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu is one of the finest hotels in New Zealand and its location alone will ensure she has a great time along with the various functions being put on during tournament week for players and partners.

"I just want to say thanks to Michael Hill and iseekgolf," said Darren. "I can't begin to tell you how excited both Belinda and I are."


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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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