Sir Michael Hill and I were strolling through the stunning canyon that is the fairway to The Hills’ 17th hole when he shared the secret to his success.
“Well, y’know, I’ve only ever been really good at one thing in my life,” he said, staring across the championship golf course that is essentially his backyard near Arrowtown.
And what’s that, I asked.
“Marketing,” Hill replied in that clipped tone of his.
It was an interesting admission. But anyone who remembers the quirky TV ads he used to star in to promote his jewellery business will agree. Those ads were quite brilliant – and hilarious. Not to mention that he was prepared to make a complete tit of himself on national telly.
So, yes, marketing is the man’s speciality. But that isn’t to say he’s not quite good at a lot of other things – like building a business empire, hosting sporting and cultural events, inspiring those around him to great heights and, by all accounts, playing the violin.
Hill and I took that walk a few years back during a media meet-and-greet just before one of the three New Zealand Opens he hosted.
He’s since lost that but bounced back – as he has a penchant for doing – with a genius new event that seems to be even better.
This new tournament combining the historic New Zealand PGA Championship with a simultaneous Pro-Am component is going to be great for the area.
And if Hill has his way, it’ll only get greater – he’s telling anyone who’ll listen that he wants this to become the country’s biggest sporting event attracting huge influxes of new visitors and dollars.
There’s other obvious personal benefits – if it grows and becomes part of the lucrative OneAsia/Japan Tour, it’ll be great for the profile of Michael Hill Jeweller in Asia. Again, marketing.
When asked this week about the synergies of the tournament with his business, he agreed there were plenty.
“Yes – and a lot of people in our business under-estimate that. I think it’s a good synergy and particularly as we develop [the business] and look at places like Asia and further afield. Asians are very passionate about their golf.”
But the success of the event in Hill’s backyard isn’t just going to benefit Michael Hill Jeweller – it’s going to be beneficial for everyone.
That’s why the Government’s onboard with a $500,000 contribution and local business owners are eagerly anticipating the event.
Let’s hope it grows as planned and doesn’t get taken away like the NZ Open.