The Japanese philanthropist who paid for last weekend’s senior masters golf tournament in Queenstown has a way to go before he’ll take home the trophy.
But for Haruhisa Handa, his love of the game and how it brings people together took priority at Millbrook Resort during the inaugural $200,000 Handa New Zealand Tournament.
Handa – a 58-year-old Shinto priest and millionaire businessman – paired with Kiwi golf legend Sir Bob Charles during the two-day Pro-Am competition before going it alone for the Handa NZ Senior Masters.
It was the first time Handa, an honorary member of the Australian and Japanese PGAs, had played as a pro in NZ.
He shot 18 over par in each of the three rounds to finish at the tail of the 72-strong field. Handa has a membership at Millbrook but hadn’t played there often in the 11 years he’s been a Queenstown Hill homeowner.
It wasn’t till last weekend the infrequent visitor realised: “I could have enjoyed it more. Through sponsoring golf I have found a new way to enjoy golf here.”
Handa plans to visit Queenstown more often to eat at some new favourite restaurants.
“I have made some very good friends here.”
Charles, the first left-hander to take a major when he won the British Open in 1963, says Handa needs a bit of coaching to “harness some of the power he’s got”.
“He swings too hard, too fast and moves his head too much.”
They played with 1990 US PGA champ Aussie Wayne Grady, who paired up with Millbrook owner Eiichi Ishii. Charles concedes his own golf was “good and bad”.
The Handa NZ Tournament is the second-richest seniors golf competition in New Zealand and Australia behind the $NZ385,000 Handa Australian Senior Open.
Handa made sure 10 per cent of the prizemoney was evenly donated to the International Blind Golf Association and New Zealand Junior Golf.
Australia’s Mike Harwood, 51, won the Handa NZ Senior Masters with a 10-under-par score of 206. Last year he won the Australian Senior Open and was also named European Senior Tour Rookie of the Year after having spent more than a decade away from competitive golf.