Fast cars, youngsters attract interest ahead of ISPS Handa New Zealand Open

Fast cars and young stars of the future attracted the interest of golfers in Queenstown today, building up to this week’s ISPS Handa New Zealand Open.

Defending Open champion Michael Hendry, cricket legends Stephen Fleming and Ricky Ponting, along with former US Open winner Michael Campbell, swapped clubs and bats for race suits and helmets to compete in the Hyundai Challenge at the Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell.

They were up against the clock in a zippy Hyundai i30N, combined with their best lap time in a Highlands Kart, all under the watchful eye of Hyundai World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon today.

Michael Hendry and Hayden Paddon warmed up at Paddon’s Hyundai Challenge at Highlands Park – Photo:


Competitive streaks came to the fore with combined times of only 1.4 seconds between the fastest and slowest of the four. Showing the form everyone’s hoping for on the Millbrook Resort and The Hills golf courses this week, Hendry took out top spot from Ponting by just 0.05 of a second, despite blowing a tyre and taking out cones on his Hyundai i30N lap.

“There was a lot of carnage there,” he said, only admitting to some experience on race and kart tracks after he’d won. “This is one of the best tracks in the country, if not the world, and all I wanted to do was not make myself look like an idiot.”

Paddon played pace man on the celebrity laps, admitting he was “not entirely comfortable”.

“I haven’t sat in the passenger seat for about 10 years, so you all scared the s**t out of me,” he joked.

Grant and Ryan Fox with students at Remarkables Primary School in Queenstown – Photo:


Back in Queenstown, Kiwi golfer Ryan Fox and his Dad, former All Black Grant Fox, had a rousing reception when they visited 600 students at Remarkables Primary School.

The pair fielded questions from students asking what inspired them to achieve their goals, why Ryan chose golf instead of rugby and top preparation tips for big tournaments and matches.

“I’ve always dreamed of being a sportsman, and after playing rugby and cricket since a young age, I started tournament golf when I was 18,” Ryan told the students.

“Golf is fun because of the challenge. It’s a chase for perfection as you don’t always have the perfect shot or play the game perfectly.

“I’m feeling confident for the Open this weekend. You’ve just got to go out there and believe you can do it.”

Wrapping up the meet and greet, Grant shared a few wise words.

“Be the best you can be,” he said. “Not everyone can become the number one sports star, so if you look in the mirror and know you’ve tried your hardest, that’s all that matters.”

The ISPS Handa New Zealand Open begins on Thursday with a round alternately at Millbrook Resort and The Hills before a cut to the top 60 players plus ties to contest the final two rounds at Millbrook Resort.


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