Go a round with golf’s old pros

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Jim brings tour mates to Kelvin Heights

A Queenstown golfer who’s quit the European Seniors Tour is bringing a professional event to his home course.

Jim Lapsley has persuaded the Australasian Legends Tour – for pros 50 years old and over – to come to the South Island this summer, including a one-day pro-am at the scenic Kelvin Heights course.

With a $10,000 purse in Queenstown, the February 23 event is expected to attract more than 40 professionals – the three amateurs they’ll each team up with will chase prizes.

Entries won’t be confirmed till three weeks out but the tour includes former household names in Australasian golf such as Sir Bob Charles, Rodger Davis, Simon Owen, John Lister and newly-qualified rookies like Peter Senior, Peter Fowler and Mike Harwood.

And that’s not forgetting Lapsley himself – the 56-year-old recently scored a sizzling 63 at Kelvin Heights, nine birdies and nine pars, and sits eighth on the tour’s order of merit after two wins this year.

“I’m pretty confident we’re going to get a very strong field,” Professional Golfers’ Association of New Zealand events manager Jim Clelland says.

“This is the first PGA-recognised tour event to be held at Queenstown Golf Club’s Kelvin Heights. We’re thrilled about it.”

The event’s already attracted naming sponsor Club Car NZ.

Lapsley says amateurs will enjoy playing with pros: “This is the only sport in the world you can play with a pro while he’s competing.”

The Queenstowner has also inspired Legends Tour events in Dunedin and Canterbury and he’s hopeful there’ll be three more in the South Island.

The tour, which has more than 40 events, will rival the European Seniors Tour in a few years, Lapsley predicts.

After three years on the European Seniors circuit, he’s pulling pin after getting just three starts in 2009 – he only had a partial card for the second year running, with the tournament schedule also dwindling.

Lapsley this month tried for the lucrative American Champions Tour – for over-50 golfers – but missed final qualifying by one shot.

He’s stoked at having played European Seniors for three years – highlights were qualifying twice for the Senior Open plus a sixth in the 2008 Italian Seniors.

Life on tour was “exciting, a huge learning curve, privileged and frustrating, but looking back I’m not going to die wondering whether I should have had a go”.

Lapsley says he broke even on the Euro tour, thanks to saving $70,000 living in a motorhome in Britain with wife and caddie Noeleen.