Pros rekindle rivalry

Professional courtesy: Craig Palmer, left, of The Hills, is welcomed by Millbrook's Peter Smith

There’s a competition within a $1 million competition at this week’s NZ Open golf tournament near Arrowtown.

As the event’s final rounds move from The Hills to Millbrook Resort, Millbrook pro Peter Smith and his counterpart Craig Palmer, from The Hills, will rekindle a golfing rivalry which saw them both make the cut last year.

“I think there’s a friendly rivalry between all the clubs in the area,” says Scot Smith, who finished last year’s tournament 52nd, at 1-over, after a couple of average final rounds at The Hills.

“It would be the same if you had the head pro of Queenstown Golf Club and Arrowtown playing in it – the membership would support one or the other.”

Palmer, who was tied for 25th last year, at 5-under, admits to a “healthy” rivalry between the clubs.

But he adds: “The relationship’s good and it’s better in the years since we co-hosted the tournament.”

Palmer, 37, says he’s not match-fit, having played just two tournaments in the last 12 months.

The biggest battle is the mental one.

“I spend the weeks leading up to the tournament convincing myself that I’m good enough to be out there playing with the big boys.

“I just keep telling myself that I can hit all the shots that I need to hit. It just comes down to whether I can hit them in a slightly different situation. My performances in the last few years give me confidence that I can.”

He’s not fazed about playing the last two rounds at Millbrook, as he’s 7-under in his last three competition rounds there.

Smith doesn’t take too much from his patchy form at three PGA Legends Tour events in Christchurch last month.

“I’ll be fine. I just have a certain way of playing golf and hopefully my body will be in good enough shape to do it.

“But at the age of 57, it doesn’t always stand up to the strain.”

Three rounds at Millbrook is an exciting prospect.

“I know the courses so well and they are different to The Hills – I know I’ll be more comfortable with this,” Smith says. “It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the field handles it.”

With a bit of rain, Millbrook might soften up, allowing players to attack the pins and shoot 65. But if it’s windy and dry, 68 will be a good score, Smith says.

“Seeing the amount of preparation that’s gone into the event here at Millbrook, I think it’s going to be a wonderful event.”