By TRACEY ROXBURGH
The last time the New Zealand Open was cancelled was in wartime.
Tournament director Michael Glading says, ironically, Covid-19 — which has now forced the cancellation of the 2021 Open, to have been played at Millbrook Resort and The Hills in February — is being described as the war of this generation.
Before a meeting of the minds on Wednesday night, Glading told Mountain Scene the future of the Open wasn’t looking good, describing it as a patient on life support, “but we haven’t turned the life support off yet”.
Yesterday, though, the switch was flipped for the 2021 event, which would have been the 102nd open.
Glading says the resolution didn’t please anyone, but NZ Golf, stakeholders and sponsors were “united” in making it.
The decision was a massive one, either way.
To commit to it, with no certainty of a trans-Tasman bubble, would have been a huge risk and could have resulted in a $4 million loss for tournament co-host Millbrook Resort alone should Covid-19 force New Zealand, or parts of it, back into lockdown.
Pulling the pin results in a loss of millions of dollars from the local economy, both through direct and indirect spending.
Glading says they left it as long as possible, hoping for more certainty around the bubble with Aussie, but “we just felt we had to put a line in the sand, really’’.
‘‘We might look back in four months time and say, ‘man, we got that decision wrong’, but I think all you can do is make the decision now, based on what you know now.’’
The Open, first played in Napier in 1907, was cancelled between 1915 and 1918 due to World War 1 and again from 1940 to 1945 due to WW2.
‘‘That’s what they say, this is our generation’s version of [war],’’ Glading says.
Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association project manager Sue Patterson says the decision’s ‘‘devastating’’.
‘‘We were really hopeful, as the New Zealand Open team was, that it would go ahead.
‘‘It’s disappointing, but it’s just the times, isn’t it?’’
Patterson says the Open’s become hugely important to the Arrowtown economy and has also helped drive golfing tourism to the town, which is home to Millbrook, The Hills and the Arrowtown golf course.
Queenstown Chamber of Commerce acting boss Craig Douglas says the Open’s another ‘‘unfortunate victim’’ of Covid-19.
‘‘It’s going to leave a big [economic] gap, for sure.’’
The next Open’s scheduled for February 17-22, 2022.