By NEVILLE IDOUR
For the first time the annual Hills Invitational ProAm, being played next month at Sir Michael Hill’s Arrowtown course, will be a PGA-sanctioned event.
Scheduled for December 19 and 20, tournament director Craig Palmer — The Hills’ director of golf — has worked with the NZPGA on the qualifying criteria, which has produced a quality field of 20 players.
The top 10 on the PGA ‘order of merit’ after last month’s Charles Tour event in New Plymouth gained automatic entry.
Palmer says they also decided to invite the winner of the PGA club professional and trainee championships.
The order of merit qualifiers are Luke Toomey, Kieran Muir, Daniel Hillier, Josh Geary, Harry Bateman, Ryan Chisnall, Michael Hendry, Jordan Loof, Gareth Paddison and Harry Na.
Dongwoo Kang, who successfully defended his club pro title, also booked his place, but the trainee champ qualifier won’t be known until that event on December 6.
The remaining spots are invited by The Hills — this year they’re defending champ Mark Brown, former winners James Anstiss (Queenstown), Daniel Pearce and Fraser Wilkin, and Queenstowners Fraser MacLachlan, Ben Campbell, who’s making an injury comeback, and Palmer.
Campbell’s upbeat about his return to competitive golf after corrective surgery on his hip and lower back.
‘‘I have been getting fit and back into practice and playing some rounds to see how it goes.
‘‘It seems pretty good so I’m hoping it will be fine for the Hills ProAm.’’
Sixty Hills club members will join the pros in the tournament to make 20 four-man teams — the total purse is $50,000, with $10,000 going to the winner.