New Zealand Open returns to Queenstown

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The New Zealand Open golf tournament is returning to Queenstown.

A beefed-up NZ Open – to be held at Millbrook Resort as well as The Hills, near Arrowtown, from February 27-March 2 – was announced in Auckland today (Tuesday).

The Hills, a private championship course owned by jeweller Sir Michael Hill, hosted three editions of the NZ Open, in 2007, 2009 and 2010, before it was allocated to Christchurch’s Clearwater.

Hill, in conjunction with the Professional Golf Association of NZ, developed the NZ PGA Championship as a replacement tournament, incorporating a pro-am.

That tournament successfully ran last year and early this year.

NZ Golf has now licensed Michael Hill Tournaments Ltd to run the NZ Open again, initially for three years.

A pro-am component will remain, however, and nearby Millbrook Resort will also come onboard for the first time.

“The NZ Open has a rich and diverse 106-year legacy and we are excited by the potential for the event to flourish in Queenstown,” NZ Golf chairman Paul Fyfe says.

“We believe that this will be a world first for a national open championship to incorporate a pro-am format and it will be an exciting new era for the NZ Open.”

The PGA Tour of Australasian event will have a minimum prize purse of $850,000.

Hill says: “Today’s announcement heralds the beginning of a new era of golf in this country.

“We have the ingredients to develop a legendary tournament and it has my full support and that of my family.”

Due to a partnership with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, also announced today, the 2014 NZ Open will host 15 leading professionals from the Japan Golf Tour.

Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd says: “The new partnership agreement between MHTL and the Japanese Golf Tour Organisation will enhance our profile in the Japanese market which is targeted by New Zealand’s tourism industry for growth.”

Budd says the tournament will provide the resort with a “huge opportunity to shine on the world stage”.

“Queenstown and Arrowtown will provide the perfect backdrop for this high profile event, offering visitors world-class facilities, multi award-winning courses, spectacular lake and alpine scenery, and a diverse range of golfing and non-golfing activity options.

“This new combined event is a culmination of The Hills golf course successfully hosting three New Zealand Opens and two NZPGA Championships over the last six years.

“We’re also delighted that the potential for amateur and professional participation is expanding with the addition of Millbrook Resort as tournament co-host.”