NZOpen on course, for now

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By MATTHEW MCKEW

A decision on whether to go ahead with next year’s New Zealand Open golf tourney will be made as late as possible, the tournament director says.

But Michael Glading admits it’s highly unlikely the annual February event will go ahead if it’s limited to domestic players.

Next year’s Open sold out of amateur slots within a month of the last tournament at Millbrook Resort and The Hills finishing, with roughly 90 per cent of this year’s competitors wanting to come again.

The tournament’s on a government list of sporting events given special permission to allow foreign competitors to enter the country, but only if they quarantine.

Glading says the tight golfing calendar makes that hard to comply with, while the sheer number of competitors complicates things further.

Each year there are 152 professionals and an equal number of amateurs, the majority of whom are internationals.

Glading: ‘‘Without sitting on our hands, we are taking a wait-and-see approach, there are a number of scenarios that could play out.’’

He says by February there could be a trans-Tasman bubble, or open borders with select countries.

Glading says the Open’s one of the most important events in New Zealand, attracting businesspeople who often invest in the country.

It also reaps massive economic benefits for the Wakatipu.

‘‘The challenges that are facing Queenstown are very, very high, so the great thing normally is when we hold this event, Queenstown’s completely sold out, so wouldn’t it be great to deliver that result again?’’

For now, the organisers are keen to press on with plans and Glading says not only is the event important for Queenstown, it’s important to the event.

‘‘To be honest with you, a big attraction for a lot of people to come is the locale.

‘‘One of the pros said to me, ‘you could never run a tournament like this if it wasn’t in Queenstown’.

‘‘It’s such an attraction, you know, even the pros feel it, they love coming to Queenstown.’’

The tourney requires more than 500 volunteers each year and Glading says that also adds to the positive impact on the resort’s economy.

The America’s Cup’s another event given special permission to admit foreign entrants.

But Glading says the size and nature of the NZ Open means it’s like comparing ‘‘apples with pears’’, and so little can be learnt from how the sailing plans to deal with Covid-19 restrictions.

The Open’s run since 1907 and is part of both the Asian and Australasian Tours.

matthew.mckew@odt.co.nz