New Zealand Open: 10 years of fun experiences and the Pro-Am

The New Zealand Open is one of the most recognized and applauded international sporting events in the Asian Tour, Australasian Tour and Japan Tour. 

New Zealand’s golfing history was established through British influence in the 1800’s. With more than a century of tradition, the tournament’s promising beginnings as a National Championship have developed into a world-class event attracting international golf enthusiasts from across the world.

The Pro-Am Championship tournament format offers the opportunity for amateurs and professionals to play together. This unique format leaves a lasting impression on participants and past participants return year after year.

“We are proud to celebrate 10 years of fun experiences and the Pro-Am.”

John Hart, Chairman of the New Zealand Open Committee.

February 2022, marks the date of the 102nd New Zealand Open. This edition will be an extraordinary immersive experience held entirely at the Millbrook Resort near Queenstown, New Zealand.

“The Coronet’s final nine holes have just been finished! This gives Millbrook a total of 36 holes,” said Hart. “For the first time, the whole tournament will be held at Millbrook Resort where players will live and play.”

The two championship golf courses at Millbrook, first designed by Sir Bob Charles and then extended into 36 holes by Greg Turner, both New Zealand golfing legends, fascinates players of all levels.

Millbrook’s setting, framed by the Remarkables mountain range and under Coronet Peak’s hillside, gives name to both of its courses.

Created and developed within the mountainous landscape, the resort offers an unforgettable experience and award-winning golf courses.

Voted Best Golf Hotel at the World Golf Awards and named Oceania’s Leading Hotel at the World Travel Awards.

Former All Black coach and respected businessman, John Hart has been the driving force restructuring the New Zealand Open as a Pro-Am event for more than a decade.

“The idea to take a prominent golf tournament and make it a Pro-Am tournament comes from a personal experience. In 2012, the New Zealand Open became the flagship event to take the Pro-Am format,” said Hart.

Key to growth is the event’s unique format where keen golf-loving business people pay to play alongside professionals for the first two days, with the best-performing amateurs making it through to the final two rounds.

“We are very proud of what we have been able to grow. It is a unique Open in the world, the only National Championship that is played as a Pro-Am format,” commented Hart “We keep getting tremendous support from our professionals as they enjoy every minute of it.”

Since the launch of the Pro-Am, the New Zealand Open has expanded to an international network of people actively supporting the tournament. There are several success stories. Many individual company owners who have played in the tournament as guests and enjoyed it so much have returned as sponsors; not looking for big returns but acting as advocates who enthusiastically showcase Queenstown and New Zealand to players in Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the United States of America.

“When we started, the New Zealand Open was mainly backed by New Zealand companies. Today, international sponsors make up more than three-quarters of our promoters,” stated Hart “This shows that by giving people the experience we were able to grow our relationships with leading companies and countries around the world.”

Kiwi hospitality is characterized by making people feel welcome and well-looked after. The New Zealand Open has become well-established in Asia and year after year offers the best experience possible to everyone who visits. Participants’ surveys show that it is one of their favourite tournaments.

“We don’t try to be the biggest, we try to be the best,” said Hart. “We go out of our way to create a great experience for both the amateurs and professionals. A lot of time goes into making it unique and different for everyone to enjoy.”

The 102nd edition of the New Zealand Open, New Zealand’s premier golfing event, will be played over two courses at Millbrook Resort between February 24 – 27, 2022.

As last year’s edition had to be postponed, the anticipation is such that there are no playing spots left available. 

“Our Amateur players are eager to join us in this special 10th anniversary of the Pro-Am, as we strive to make their wait worthwhile,” said Hart.

With up to 300 international participants attending, it is crucial to ensure easy access to New Zealand and to provide the necessary measures in order to keep the tournament running smoothly.

“We remain very committed to showcasing the very best of Queenstown and New Zealand at a time when hopefully we will all be operating in a more certain and safer environment.”

John Hart, Chairman of the New Zealand Open Committee.

Professional players like current New Zealand Open champion and two-time winner, Brad Kennedy, are taking the opportunity to prepare themselves for the season and also enjoy some of Queenstown’s leisure activities.

The timing of the New Zealand Open works well as it is scheduled a month before the Japan tour traditionally kicks off. Since the weather in Japan during February is not very welcoming for golf, Japan Tour Pro players get the opportunity to practice before the tournament starts while enjoying the region.

Golf is well-loved in Japan. Japanese engagement with the New Zealand Open indicates it is one of the international events Japanese golfers really look forward to. 

Some of the leading Japanese professionals who have taken part in the New Zealand Open over several years include:

“There’s everything to like about the golf courses and surrounding scenery of the New Zealand Open. Above all, the enthusiasm of the local people makes the tournament very special. I always feel grateful for the warm welcome extended to overseas players and it makes me happy to think that, even in some small way, I can contribute, through golf, to Japan-New Zealand relations.”

Toshinori Muto, professional Japanese golfer

“The NZ Open is a tournament that I look forward to playing in every year. The people, scenery, and the courses are great.  It’s a place you want to go to even if there’s no tournament to play in. I want to travel there someday with my family.”

Akio Sadakata, professional Japanese golfer

“I always enjoy the natural environment of the New Zealand Open and the wonderful hospitality of the local people. It’s one of the places I want to visit every year and I am looking forward to taking part again next year.”

Yoshitaka Takeya, professional Japanese golfer

New Zealand has always had an outstanding working relationship with Japan on many levels. The New Zealand Open’s nine-year partnership with the Japan Tour has enabled this relationship to develop and Japan’s involvement in the tournament has been important right from the start.  Japanese baseball legend, Masumi Kuwata, has played twice as a celebrity and Japanese collaborators such as Sumitomo Forestry, Oji Holdings and JTB Corp together with their New Zealand affiliates all confirm the strength of the Japan-New Zealand relationship.

This Japanese connection is cemented by Mr. Gota Ishii, Managing Director of Millbrook Resort and host of the New Zealand Open. Thanks to his vision and perseverance and the legacy and commitment to excellence of the Ishii family, the 2022 edition of the New Zealand Open will undoubtedly be one to remember.

“We are very proud that Millbrook Resort has become recognized as the home of a world-class New Zealand Open tournament. It is really pleasing to see people connecting throughout the week and the event going from strength to strength each year that it is held.”

Gota Ishii, Managing Director of Millbrook Resort and host of the New Zealand Open

If this sounds like something you would like to take part in — whether by participating actively or cheering on from the side-line — you can learn more at the New Zealand Open.

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