Eight of the last 10 winners of the New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport have come from players from across the Tasman.
Rising New Zealand hope, Dan Hillier is one of the homegrown prospects keen to add some black type to the list when the tournament tees off at the Millbrook Resort near Queenstown on Thursday.
The 102nd New Zealand Open will see 156 professionals chasing a record $1.65 million in prizemoney in the 72-hole event, joined by 156 amateurs over the first two rounds, at Mill Brook Resort, which celebrates its 30th anniversary with its new 36-hole layout used for the first time.
Hillier, 24, from Wellington is hoping he can put himself in contention at the start of an exciting year as he competes in the DP World Tour for the first time after earning promotion from the Europe-based Challenge Tour last year.
He comes in with a rich amateur career behind him – winning the national amateur titles in New Zealand twice and Australia and was co-medallist in the US Amateur. He turned professional in 2019 and played on the PGA Tour of Australasian the following year before qualifying for the Open Championship last year.
Hillier has already started his European Tour adventure, finishing T83 at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic, T42 at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship and T51 at the Thailand Classic, picking up more than $50,000 in the process.
“It has been massive and I got off to a decent start. I have not had any magic over the weekends but I am making cuts and feeling fairly comfortable.
“It was nice to have those Rolex events at the start of the year which has put me in good stead – I’ve put myself up against some of the best players in the world and put some decent results up on the board.
“It has been a busy stretch and it has not been easy to get back here but I am pleased that I have. It’s the first time it’s been played in a couple of years which makes it extra exciting.”
He is hopeful that his game is in shape to be in contention in Queenstown this week, even enlisting the help of Steve Williams on his bag.
“It is always a special week out here in Queenstown. Every time it is such a special place and everyone raves about it. For me it is no different.
“It would be so special to get my name on the Brodie Breeze Trophy. I feel that my game is in a pretty good spot. It has been a big stretch for me but being my home open it is obviously a pretty exciting week. I just have to keep my head down and make sure I execute my game plan.”
The tournament begins on Thursday, all played at Millbrook Resort, before the cut for the final two rounds over the weekend.