2003 NZ Open signals return of hometown favourites
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2003 New Zealand Open | General | 10 Oct 2002
The 2003 Holden New Zealand Open, while not carrying the hooplah and razamatazz of this year’s event, gained an important boost yesterday with the announcement that Frank Nobilo, Phil Taturangi and Bob Charles have confirmed their participation for the tournament which starts on January 16th 2003.
Nobilo has not played a New Zealand Open since 1997 when it was last played at the Auckland Golf Club and as he does not normally start his season in the US until the Phoenix event at the end of January there will be no clash. Nobilo has of course yet to secure his full card for the 2003 USPGA Tour as he is currently in 128th place on the money list, but he will get as many as twenty starts next year even if he does not finish inside the top one twenty five or regain his card at the tour school.
Phil Tataurangi has missed the cut at this last two appearances at the New Zealand Open but now fully recovered from injury and minor heart problems his golf seems close to its best again. He has had a very good season in the US safely regaining his card. Like Nobilo he has yet to win his national title and will no doubt be keen to do so.
2000 winner Michael Campbell will line up along with 66 year old Bob Charles who first won this event in 1954.
Grant Waite and Michael Long, two other US PGA Tour New Zealanders have not commited as yet and their appearance may be determined by their status on the USPGA Tour at that time.. Both are struggling to retain full playing cards and it might be that the Sony Open in Hawaii is a more attractive option in terms of kick starting their respective 2003 US seasons.
Still no word on Craig Perks it would appear but further player announcements are imminent.
The tournament is expected to carry prizemoney of $NZ700,000, certainly below last year’s levels, but up on the years prior to the one off event in Wellington last year where Tigers appearance played such a key role.
The likely continuing support of Peter O’Malley and defending champion Craig Parry and those players mentioned earlier should ensure a successful event.
Personally I don’t believe the NZGA should spend a lot of extra time and money chasing lesser ranked US USPGA Tour players (New Zealanders aside) in order to give the event significance. They have historically had little impact on crowds or the event generally and quite frankly they don’t add significance. If they are able to attract the players outlined here, then they, along with the likes of the emerging stars of Australasian golf such as Gareth Paddison, Tim Wilkinson, Eddie Lee, Marcus Fraser, Richard Lee, Scott Gardiner etc will go a long way to re-establish the event following the hype and almost surreal nature of last year.
The New Zealand Open is an event with proud tradition having been won by players with a collective total of thirteen majors between them. Thomson, Nagle, Charles, Pavin, Baker-Finch and Bobby Locke have all gone on to win at the highest level of the game but have all no doubt been proud winners of this event.
The future of the New Zealand Open lies not in trying to compete with events internationally, as from a financial perspective that is out of the question, but rather in rebuilding the event slowly but surely and establishing a solid base and a niche for itself in Australasian golf. If it can do that successfully, then it will gain its own monetum.