The Michael Hill New Zealand Golf Open celebrates its 100th anniversary this week at a spectacular new venue of The Hills Golf Club near Queenstown on the country’s scenic South Island.
Michael Campbell, the nation’s golfing icon, is set to become the official Ambassador to the New Zealand Open, which he attempt to win for the second time exactly a century after Kiwi amateur A D S Duncan captured the first title in 1907.
Campbell, a proud Maori who launched the Michael Campbell Foundation in 2005 – the year he won the US Open Championship – will donate all his winnings from the NZ $1,500,000 tournament to the New Zealand Junior Golf Foundation.
The Michael Hill New Zealand Open is the country’s richest sporting event, with well known New Zealand businessman, Michael Hill, the title sponsor over the golf course which he owns close to the world renowned tourist destination of Queenstown.
Nestling beneath the majestic Southern Alps, the Hills course is set to host the tournament for the next three years and represents the first time New Zealand’s National Open has been played on the South Island since 1985.
The tournament has twice been co-sanctioned by The European Tour and the PGA Tour of Australia, with Niclas Fasth of Sweden (2005) and Nathan Green of Australia (2007) emerging victorious.
Fasth’s play-off victory over England’s Miles Tunnicliff two years ago was only the second New Zealand Open win for a European player following Northern Ireland’s Ronan Rafferty in 1987, while Green came from six shots back to secure his first European Tour success at Gulf Harbour Country Club near Auckland.
The Michael Hill New Zealand Open has a rich history and an illustrious list of past champions, including seven Major Champions in Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, New Zealand’s own Sir Bob Charles, Kel Nagle, Ian Baker-Finch, Corey Pavin and, of course, Campbell in the year 2000.
The enduringly popular Charles has accepted an invitation to play at the Hills Golf Club at the age of 71.
Sweden’s Daniel Chopra, who lost a play-off for the MasterCard Masters in Australia at the weekend, heads for New Zealand hoping to go one better at the Hills. He is joined in the field by Australia’s Peter O’Malley and England’s Dave Horsey, who birdied three of the last six holes for a 65 and a share of fifth place.