Sporting Legends Back In Play In Queenstown

The New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport is excited to announce the line-up of tournament Sporting Legends who will be Ambassadors for the tournament.

They will play in the New Zealand Open Pro-Am event alongside the professionals when the New Zealand Open is played between March 2 and 5 at Queenstown’s Millbrook Resort.

Sporting Legends Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum Sean Fitzpatrick, Ella Gunson, Hayden Paddon, Jeff Wilson, Sir Ian Botham and Israel Dagg are all set to tee it up in the New Zealand Open Pro-Am event.

Former New Zealand Cricket captain, Stephen Fleming, has been a huge supporter of the event since its inception and is looking forward to showcasing Queenstown to the world again after a two-year break.

“In my opinion, this is probably New Zealand’s best sporting event. What other national sporting event lets amateur players, like me, play alongside professional sportsmen who are competing for a national title and a huge prize purse,” he said.

“The New Zealand Open isn’t just a golf tournament, for me it’s an opportunity to showcase our beautiful country to the world. While I would love to win the Pro-Am event, our job as Ambassadors is to cross codes and use the event as a vehicle to drive eyes on Queenstown and New Zealand.”

“We also love meeting and interacting with the other amateur players, the professional golfers from around the world and the volunteers, caddies and fans who are a big part of what makes the tournament so special.”

Teeing it up for the first time as an ambassador, former Black Sticks legend, Ella Gunson is no stranger to playing in high profile sporting events having played in two Olympics (2012 and 2021), won two Commonwealth Games medals (Gold in 2018 and Silver in 2010) and a host of other accolades in her 232 caps representing New Zealand.

Police Constable Gunson from Whangarei, plays off a 6.6 handicap and is known for her long hitting game which she is excited to test in the tournament pro-am.

“I’m really looking forward to the tournament, I’ve seen the event on TV and have always wanted to experience what it’s like playing alongside a professional in a major event like this,” she said.

“It’s away from the hockey turf so it’s a bit out of my comfort zone, so I imagine that first tee shot will be a bit nervy but I’m really excited.”

Joining the Ambassador team after the Black Caps vs England test series which finishes just before the New Zealand Open, is former Blackcap captain and current England Cricket Coach Brendon McCullum.

“The New Zealand Open is an amazing week, and one that I love being a part of,” said McCullum.

“I can’t wait to be back at Millbrook and taking on the new course. We had a sneak peek at the new holes back in 2020 and it looked spectacular, and I’ve been waiting for a chance to play it ever since.”

Tournament Chairman John Hart believes having these legends of world sport as Ambassadors for the New Zealand Open brings an extra dimension to the event .

“Our Tournament Ambassadors play a vital role in working with our organising committee to help promote and host The New Zealand Open. Each of them gives of their time generously both prior to  and particularly during the event to help ensure that our sponsors, amateur players, volunteers, and fans are given a world class experience.”

“Don’t underestimate how hard it is for these iconic players in their own sport to step out of their comfort zones and play live on TV. And not to mention their playing partner is trying to win what we believe it is the largest individual prize on offer on the New Zealand sporting calendar,” said Hart.

Tournament organisers are also delighted that one of the sponsors, Poongsan, has also invited NFL Legend Larry Fitzgerald to return for his second appearance. Fitzgerald played for the Arizona Cardinals for 17 seasons picking up a huge amount of franchise and NFL records. Fitzgerald’s golfing exploits include scoring a hole-in-one while playing with former President Barack Obama and winning the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pro-Am in California with professional Kevin Streelman.

The 102nd New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport will take place between March 2 – 5, 2023 at Millbrook Resort in Queenstown.

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