Parting Shot: Don’t rue Queenstown’s coup, NZ


Committee members of august North Island golf clubs like Titirangi, The Grange and Paraparaumu Beach are probably spluttering into their gin and tonics.

The owners of Arrowtown’s The Hills and Millbrook have pulled off arguably the greatest heist in the history of New Zealand golf.

After The Hills’ current three-year agreement to host the Open, in conjunction with Millbrook, expires next year, guess who gets the next five years?

Yep, these superb courses have just been handed a five-year extension.

Except this time Millbrook, rather than The Hills, will underwrite the tournament - and Millbrook will now swap hosting rights for the final two days with The Hills.

Other clubs throughout NZ might question why a national tournament that’s more than 100 years old can’t be spread around a bit.

My reply to them, however, is simple: ‘You’ve missed the cut’.

The NZ Open had been in the rough for some time when Sir Michael Hill first staged the Open at his newly-minted course, The Hills, in 2007.

After three editions, the tournament was rather rudely taken off him and given to Clearwater, on the outskirts of Christchurch, after that city’s council threw some money around.

In Christchurch, however, the tournament languished for two years.

Hill, to his credit, didn’t mope around - instead, he decided to revive the former NZ PGA tournament.

Inspired by ex-All Blacks coach John Hart, a pro-am event was tacked on.

Then, hey presto, Hill got the Open back last year.

The pro-am - which this year attracted former cricket superstars Sir Vivian Richards and Shane Warne, along with returnees Ricky Ponting and Sir Ian Botham - was carried over, making this the only Open in the world with a pro-am alongside it. That’s a smart move.

Beyond the celebrity appeal, most amateurs pay a hefty fee so it’s a neat funding trick.

You can bet that if the Open moved somewhere else, the pro-am will be cut.

Would Botham or Richards really want to go to Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch?

The beauty of keeping the Open here till at least 2021 is that The Hills and Millbrook can become like Augusta in the US - the only location in which the Masters major is ever held.

Remember, too, that the government’s financial support for the Open is directly related to Queenstown, and the business links with Japan and the rest of Asia.

Can’t see John Key being keen to play anywhere else.

The new deal is a great tribute to the owners of The Hills and Millbrook.

Perhaps the best thing about last week’s announcement is that NZ Golf now also fully appreciates what Hill and Millbrook’s Japanese owner Eiichi Ishii have done for its banner tournament.