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Young Guns Ready To Fire At NZ Open

Victorian Lucas Herbert is among the youth brigade at this week's prestigious New Zealand Open.
The emergence of young stars is one of the joys of being a golf fan and this week’s New Zealand Open in Queenstown is shaping as a potential ‘changing of the guard’ moment.

Several '20-somethings' with ambition and talent to burn take their place in the field at Millbrook and The Hills with the hope of hoisting one of the prestigious golf trophies in the region.

Australian Open champion Cameron Davis and last week’s NZ PGA winner and local Ben Campbell spearhead a strong youth movement with names including Lucas Herbert, Deyen Lawson, Anthony Quayle and Jack Wilson among those deserving a place in the conversation.

The revamped tournament, which is now played as a pro-am in one of the most picturesque locations in the world, kicks off Thursday with a New Zealand native defending for the first time in 14 years.

Michael Hendry claimed an emotional victory in extra time last year when he accounted for fellow Japan Tour player Brad Kennedy and aforementioned Kiwi Ben Campbell.

Hendry was the first Kiwi to lift the Brodie Breeze Trophy since Mahal Pearce in 2003 and will need to be at his best if he is to defend in the face of the youth movement.

Herbert, in particular, has shown glimpses of world-class play in recent months and with the security of a PGA Tour China card won at the recent Q-School, the Bendigo native is in a position to play with freedom.

The 22-year-old is as powerful as almost anyone in world golf and his course management has matured enough this past year to allow him to qualify for the upcoming Open Championship in July.

Strong performances at the NSW Open, Australian Open and recent World Super 6 Perth make Herbert the player to watch in a field that boasts more than one in that category.

Quayle is also part of that group, the Queensland-based Northern Territory native becoming a fixture at the pointy end of PGA Tour of Australasia leaderboards.

Quayle is a year older than Herbert but like his Victorian counterpart came into his own in 2017 and the early part of this year.

He and Lawson were part of the thrilling final round which saw Campbell victorious at last week’s NZ PGA.

Campbell's win at last week's NZ PGA was his first professional victory.

Both Lawson and Campbell have been steadily improving over the past 12 months and Campbell would love nothing more than to go back-to-back in his home country.

Victoria’s Wilson had more early success than all of the above combined when he became the first trainee professional to win a PGA Tour of Australasia event at the WA PGA back in 2013.

A month later he was anointed by Adam Scott as Australian golf’s ‘next big thing’ when the pair played together at the Australian PGA but such predictions rarely pan out.

A year of struggling on Europe’s secondary Tour and a nagging wrist injury cost Wilson time and confidence but the past 12 months have been much better.

Now a fully paid up member of the Asian Tour, Wilson - like Herbert - can play with a freedom he didn’t have three months ago, secure in the knowledge he is assured of a place to play in 2018.

If the winner was to come from this group on Sunday, it would be no surprise but it would also be a mistake to assume one of the more experienced campaigners won’t get the job done.

Among the list of highly credentialed veterans teeing up are Scott Hend, KJ Choi and Japan Tour stalwart Brendan Jones.

All still have enough power to mix it with the young bucks and more wisdom to call on when the pressure is at its most intense, the latter often more important than the former come Sunday afternoon.

What is guaranteed is that whoever holds the trophy at the end of the week will have earned it and we, the viewing public, will have been treated to a fascinating spectacle.



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