But next week the focus will be firmly on a small white ball – as the likes of Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup sailor Sir Russell Coutts, Olympic shot put medallist Tom Walsh, New Zealand’s most-capped hockey player Ryan Archibald and Pittsburgh Major League baseball player Masumi Kuwata play in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open in Queenstown (March 9 – 12).
Also stepping outside their sporting comfort zone will be NZ cricket legends Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming, Aussie cricketers Shane Warne, Allan Border and Ricky Ponting, crowd-pleaser Sir Ian Botham, dual rugby and cricket international Jeff Wilson and former All Black Grant Fox.
Ian Botham is back to tee off again in the Celebrity Pro-AM Field
Renowned celebrity chef Josh Emett leaves the kitchen to turn up the heat on the golf course, while TV personality and singer Kerri-Anne Kennerley – one of Australia’s most seasoned entertainment hosts – is out to show just how much she loves a good game of golf.
The 14 celebrity amateurs will play as part of the tournament’s popular and successful Pro-Am format.
Considering golf isn’t their ‘first’ sport, the celebrities boast some pretty handy handicaps, including cricket great Ricky Ponting who could go toe-to-toe with the pro’s with an impressive scratch handicap.
The 125kg super-strong Walsh, who took up playing golf with his shot put coach in their ‘down time’, plays off a very handy 11 handicap, while the likes of McCullum, Border, Fleming, Warne, Botham, Archibald and Wilson are all ten-or-below handicappers.
Golf obviously runs in the blood for former AB Grant Fox, father of top Kiwi hopeful Ryan Fox, as he plays off a very solid four handicap, while Sir Russell Coutts, who loves the game so much he’s built a private nine-hole golf course at his home above Arrowtown, is on a tidy 14.
Japanese baseball star Kuwata is no stranger to a slightly larger white ball, and plays off an impressive six handicap, while Kennerley and Emett play off 16 and 15 respectively.
Tournament director Michael Glading says the amateur and celebrity format of the tournament is unique in that it boasts world class golfers playing for $1m in prizemoney, and also 140 amateur players who get to play alongside the professionals.
“Adding sporting and other celebrities really adds an extra dimension to our unique event, and spectators love spotting those famous faces in amongst the pros. The entertainment factor is huge, enjoyed by die-hard golf fans and those along for a great day out.
“I suspect there will be more than a few people keen to see how far Tom can hit the ball off the tee, for example!”