The Wakatipu’s double whammy two-week sporting extravaganza has teed off.
Thousands of golfing and mountain biking enthusiasts are expected to descend on the resort from today for two major events.
The inaugural four-day New Zealand PGA Pro-Am Championship of golf kicked off this morning at The Hills course near Arrowtown whilst the second annual Queenstown Bike Festival starts tomorrow. The bike festival continues for 10 days.
Golf tournament favourite Brendan Jones, of Australia, joined Kiwi pro Phil Tataurangi and ex-All Black and celebrity amateur Justin Marshall yesterday for a light-hearted stunt teeing off from Queenstown’s Paraflights boat on Lake Wakatipu onto the fifth hole at Kelvin Heights’ golf course.
Golf host Sir Michael Hill, who had his own television crew filming the typically zany promotion, says his new tournament will help showcase not just Queenstown – but the whole country – as a golf and holiday destination.
“This could help bring billions to the place – it really could. The golf could be bigger than skiing and brings high-yield visitors who spend the money.”
Tataurangi says: “I’m not going to dispute Sir Michael, that’s for sure. It’s going to be something special.
“Queenstown’s the perfect place to hold the tournament, being the tourism capital.
“This couldn’t have worked anywhere else in NZ as well as it’s going to work here.
“It’s a great destination to be in and it will leverage not only the game of golf but everything that’s great about NZ,” Tataurangi says.
Bike Festival organiser Geoff Hunt expects about 1100 bikers this year – and forecasts 15,000 visitors will come by next year.
“We’re trying to grow the festival slowly so we don’t extend ourselves too much and it’s not too dramatic.”
Queenstown Lone Star restaurant owner Dave Gardiner anticipates a big influx.
“It’s looking quite good for the next couple of weeks for hospitality because of people like Sir Michael Hill and the bike festival organiser Geoff Hunt.”
Gardiner says golf’s third and final NZ Open in 2010 was one of the best events town’s ever had.
“If they can make this permanent, it’ll be massive.”