Impressive 2015 line-up of NZ golf tournament courses

Tournament Update – New Zealand 

Impressive selection of courses all set

Several high-profile club courses kicked off 2015 in style as they prepared to host some of New Zealand’s leading golf events.

Tasman’s Nelson Golf Club was set to host the 31st New Zealand Men’s Seniors in February, a tournament that consistently attracts more than 150 entries from around the globe.  

Defending champion Michael Barltrop had his work cut out for him this year on the challenging links course, which had never before hosted a men’s national open.

Nelson has been hosting big tournaments for more than 100 years. In 1912, the New Zealand Ladies Golf Championship was held there, and 10 national events have been held there over the past 40 years, including the 2008 NZ Toro Women’s Interprovincial.  

The first New Zealand Speedgolf Open was scheduled to tee off at the Rotorua Golf Club in late February, with Olympic 1500m silver medallist Nick Willis set to ‘take off’.  Willis is a big fan of the game, in which gross scores are added to completion times to derive a composite score.

Willis scored 130.20 when he competed in the first round of the 2013 World Speedgolf Championship. The tally was a combination of his 86 gross score plus the 44 minutes and 20 seconds to complete the course.

Speedgolf is fun, fast, fitness-oriented and open to all newcomers, keen athletes and casual golfers as well as traditional 18-hole members, of course. The 2015 winners will win a place in the Speedgolf World Championships in Oregon later in the year.

Clearwater members and, in fact, the whole of New Zealand was braced for the return of Lydia Ko to New Zealand for the 2015 ISPS Handa NZ Women’s Open in late February.

Some doubt was cast last year on whether Ko would appear in the tournament, given her tight schedule, however, Ko confirmed in December that she would return to compete for the title she won in 2013. She was set to tee off on February 27 at the Clearwater Resort in Christchurch.

Lydia Ko’s exploits at age 17 are staggering, setting records almost every time she tees up. Many New Zealand golfers’ fingers were crossed for months that she would also take out the annual Halberg Supreme Sportsperson Award, which was due to be announced on February 12.

Ko was up against three of New Zealand’s best in three other disciplines for the High Performance Sportswoman title – rowing’s Emma Twigg, world-class canoeist Lisa Carrington, and world champion shot putter Valerie Adams.

Her biographical notes for the awards read: “Lydia won the inaugural Race to CME Globe and three LPGA Tour events (Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, LPGA Marathon Classic and CME Globe Tour Championship). Lydia is now the number three ranked professional female golfer in the world – the highest ever position held by a New Zealand golfer”. 

Quite amazing…wonder if she has her driving licence yet?

Both the 2015 Men’s and Women’s Stroke Play Championship winners will be decided at the Paraparaumu Beach Links Golf course on March 26. 

Paraparaumu, which has rated as high as 71st position in the world by US Golf Magazine, has hosted the New Zealand Open a record 12 times. Officially, it is also the only New Zealand course that Tiger Woods has played, when he competed in the 2002 New Zealand Open.

The word is, however, that Woods along with his then caddy Steve Williams, turned up announced for a quiet round at South Head golf course north of Auckland.

The 2002 Open will be remembered for the one in which Woods almost missed the cut. Fortunately for his fans, Woods did rally and ended up in sixth position, with Craig Parry taking line honours.

The oldest club in the Hawkes Bay, and the host of the inaugural New Zealand Open in 1907, Napier Golf Club is due to host the 2015 New Zealand Women’s Autumn Foursomes on March 23-26.

Also known as Waiohiki, the club has attracted some of the top amateur women players in its 79-year history, as well as sustaining a rich social programme.

Hamilton Golf Club, St Andrews also has a proud history of hosting national tournaments with six national tournaments being played there in past 10 years, as well as the 32nd Queen Sirikit Trophy in 2010.

Hamilton was to host the New Zealand Women’s Senior Match Play championships in late February, and had attracted entries from around New Zealand, along with national champions from Australia and New Caledonia.

The line-up of amateurs for the 2015 BMW New Zealand Open on March 12-15 is arguably better billed than the professionals at this stage. International cricket stars confirmed to tee it up at the Hills and Millbrook Resort include Sir Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Sir Ian Botham, Graeme Swann, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne, Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle and Mark Richardson.

Richards, Lara and company will compete in the pro-am teams challenge event of the tournament, in which amateur players are partnered with a professional in a two-ball best-ball team format. Ponting is one of the lowest markers, currently playing off a handicap of +1, with Astle the lowest Kiwi from that revered group, on a handicap of 4.6.

The BMW New Zealand Open is a sanctioned Tier One event on the PGA Tour of Australasia with a maximum field of 136 players.  Players will alternate between The Hills and Millbrook Resort near Queenstown for the first two rounds before the field is cut to 60+ ties.  The final two rounds will be played at The Hills.