The 22 golfers from 12 clubs played in the Millbrook Challenge yesterday after qualifying through club competitions for the chance to contend for the amateur spot, worth $10,000.
Geordie Gibson of Invercargill’s Green Acres golf club won the Millbrook Challenge at Queenstown’s Millbrook Resort – credit: photosport.nz
Organisers this year increased the number of clubs eligible to vie for the spot, and enabled them to put forward two players, one male, one female (previously only one player from each club could qualify).
Players came from Kelvin Heights, Arrowtown, Invercargill, Green Acres, Queens Park, Cromwell, Wanaka, Alexandra, Dunstan, Lake Hawea, Winton and Gore clubs, some teeing off at the championship course for the first time.
Among those was eventual winner Geordie Gibson, 40, from Invercargill’s Green Acres.
Playing off a 15.1 handicap index, he was the clear winner after three holes but said he “couldn’t have been more surprised”.
“I’ve never played here before, so I was just looking forward to the experience and trying to keep my nerves under control by drinking lots of water,” he said.
The Australian-born quantity surveyor said he played when he was younger, then took it up again when he moved to Invercargill and set up his business. He usually plays once a week at the weekend.
Tournament Director Michael Glading (L) congratulates Geordie Gibson (R) on winning an amateur spot to play in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open
“It was a really good decision to give myself the day off today,” he said, beaming.
“It’s still too much to take in right now, I’ll have to let it sink in and think about getting in a bit of intense practice on different courses.”
He said the ‘dream shot’ that probably landed him the win was his second shot onto the 8th green which landed 4ft from the pin.
“I’m super excited to be playing in the Open,” he said. And as for which of his golfing heroes he’s like to be playing alongside?
“Any of them. I can’t wait.”
The 99th ISPS Handa New Zealand Open will be played at Millbrook Resort and The Hills golf courses from March 1 to 4 2018.