Double Olympic Champion and eight-time World Champion rower Eric Murray will join World Rally Championship Hyundai driver Hayden Paddon among the celebrities to take part in the event.
Eric Murray (right) will play in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open PRO-AM – photo: photosport.nz
The 99th ISPS Handa New Zealand Open, co-sanctioned on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia and Asian Tour schedules, in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour, takes place at Millbrook Resort and The Hills on 1-4 March.
The $1.2 million prizemoney event will see 144 players compete for the first two rounds before the second round cut to 60 players plus ties to contest the final two rounds. The unique nature of the event also sees 144 amateur players take part, each partnering with a Professional in a two-man best-ball event for the first two rounds.
Murray and Paddon are included in the amateur field, alongside other celebrities that include former double international Jeff Wilson, New Zealand cricket captain Stephen Fleming, Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting, former England cricket star all-rounder Sir Ian Botham, Japan baseball legend Masumi Kuwata and Australia’s Logie Award winning actress and television personality Kerri-Anne Kennerley.
It is the first time Paddon and Murray have taken part, with the other celebrities all regular attendees in recent years and all keen golfers led by Ponting, who plays off a scratch handicap.
Paddon will fly home immediately after competing in the snow-laden Rally of Sweden in the FIA World Rally Championship to compete at Queenstown.
The 30-year-old is a keen golfer who players off a 12.9 handicap, introduced to the game by his grandfather who was a greenkeeper.
“My grand-dad always took me out golfing with him. That’s where the love for the sport started and through my high school years, I would be playing two or three times a week,” said Paddon.
“The New Zealand Open is set amongst the most beautiful courses and scenery in the world. It’s an honour to be a part of it and to play these courses.”
Murray, who plays off an 18 handicap, like Paddon, played golf while he was at high school, and is making a social return to the game since his retirement from competitive rowing.
The 35-year-old used to play regularly at the Maramarua Golf Course near the family home at Bombay before turning his attentions to rowing.
“I always thought when I was involved in rowing that I would have time to play golf a bit but that never happened,” Murray said.
“I was invited to the Steven Adams Charity golf event and since then decided to dedicate some time to playing again and I am loving it.”
He has become a member of Cambridge Golf Club and received some expert tuition from Simon Thomas as the St Peters Golf Academy.
“I enjoy the strategic part of golf and of course the technical focus, that it is not just about the shot you are hitting but the next shot.
“It’s a lot of fun and I am loving playing the game again.”
The celebrities will also be involved in a range of activities and functions around the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open week.
The field will be finalised this week, with a last six players to be added from final qualifying at Cromwell Golf Club and Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club on Monday 26 February.