Show back on road, hopefully better than ever

The New Zealand Open tournament director will happily be flat out in the coming months if it means no longer having to be obsessed with a pandemic and border restrictions.

When the 102nd Open tees off at Millbrook on March 2, it will have been three years since defending champion Brad Kennedy won the last tournament to be played before Covid took over.

That means 2023 will be both a big year and a rebuilding year for the New Zealand Open.

“We’re well and truly pressing the ‘go’ button now,” Glading told the Otago Daily Times from Auckland yesterday.

“It’s rebuilding in that we haven’t done it for a couple of years, so the show needs to get back on the road. But we also want the show to be better than ever.

“I can’t see any impediment to progress this year, which is the first time I’ve been able to say that for a couple of years.

“We’re not sitting here thinking, now, what if the people from America can’t come, and that sort of thing.”

The Open will again be a Tier One event co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour, in partnership with the Japanese Tour.

A separate milestone will be marking 10 years since the national tournament introduced the pro-am in which 156 paying amateurs are paired with professionals in a simultaneous best-ball format.

That raised some eyebrows when it started but has become a major part of the tournament.

“Our amateur field has more than sold out again,” Glading said.

“All of our major sponsors have also stuck with us. That was always a worry. When you cancel an event two years in a row, people sometimes move on, but that hasn’t been the case.”

The prize purse was $1.4 million at the last Open and organisers hope it will be slightly more come March.

It is a touch early to be talking about the strength of the field — and the tournament is holding steadfast to its policy of not paying appearance fees — but Glading is about to head into a period of general player recruitment.

The two big carrots are a week in Queenstown and the chance to play in an event that has secured a reputation for being well run.

“I will be travelling all of November. Up to Japan first then to Australia for a week then off to Jakarta for the Asian Tour.

“Our professional field will hopefully be pretty full by Christmas time and then we’re back into delivery mode.”

It was an interesting time for golf with the arrival of the LIV series and the eye-watering amounts of money being offered to elite golfers simply for showing up, Glading said.

“It does make the landscape slightly different.

“A bucketload of money is being thrown at the top end, but you’ve then got probably 700 amazing golfers at the professional level, a lot of whom are young and on the way up.”

The Open has almost specialised in giving rising stars a chance to shine before they head off to conquer the world.

World No 2 Cameron Smith — the Australian is the biggest name to sign up for LIV Golf — played the Open when it was at The Hills and has always said he would love to come back.

South Korean golfers Sungjae Im and Kim Joo-hyung are recent examples of how an early taste of top tournament play in Arrowtown can lead to a place among the PGA Tour elite.

“We’ve been able to bring players to Queenstown who are hugely on the way up, and that’s an exciting thing about our tournament,” Glading said.

The 2022 New Zealand Open was to offer automatic British Open qualifying spots to its top three finishers.

That rare boost was gone but Glading said there was a chance the New Zealand winner would be granted entry into the major.

Millbrook has co-hosted the Open with The Hills seven times but the resort will have sole duties for the first time next year.

Golfers will play alternate rounds over the first two days on the Remarkables and Coronet 18s at Millbrook.

Article courtesy of the Otago Daily Times | [email protected]

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