18 Dec 2012 - NZPGA
Justin Marshall will have his work cut out to retain his title as the leading halfback at the 2013 NZPGA Championship in Queenstown.
The former All Black grabbed a top 10 finish in the 62 strong Pro Am field with his professional partner Brendan Jones in the inaugural event at The Hills earlier this year. In the process he claimed the trans-Tasman boasting rights over Australian rival Nick Farr-Jones, who with his partner Matt Guyatt finished further back in the pack in 33rd place
However, Marshall will face a sterner challenge in 2013, with the Aussies mounting a two-pronged attack.
Farr-Jones is back for another crack at the title, while George Gregan has also added his name to the mix.
Marshall never hesitated to accept his invitation to return, after thoroughly enjoying the experience this year.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve done in my life. The NZPGA Championship was just incredible.”
“Playing with Brendan was a tremendous experience. I felt privileged to be on the course with him and would love to be teamed up with him again.”
Farr-Jones couldn’t agree more. The former Australian captain also jumped at the chance to play again and is planning to bring his wife to Queenstown to enjoy the occasion.
“It’s a fantastic experience. The event, the scenery – everything just comes together to make it an amazing place to be.
“For us hackers it’s a great honour and a great privilege to play a tournament alongside these talented pros.
“One of the beauties of this tournament is Matt and I have become good friends since playing together in New Zealand and basically whenever he’s in Sydney as he was with the Australian Open, he now stays with me, along with his caddy. It’s part of the unique aspect of the event – some friendships for life can be made out of it.”
Meanwhile, Gregan has thrown his hat into the ring on Marshall’s advice. While they were fierce rivals on the rugby field, the two players developed a great friendship off the pitch and that has continued since hanging up their boots.
The pair often catch up for a game of golf and managed a round at Jack’s Point in Queenstown during the Rugby World Cup last year.
Gregan finished on top that day and is looking forward to a repeat performance at the Hills so Marshall can get the drinks in.
It’s just a lot of fun but bragging rights will come down to who has to get the first beer on the 19th hole. Marshy’s apparently pretty good at puring them after his Grumpy Mole days!” While his two younger rivals focus on each other, Farr-Jones is quietly confident of his chances of winning, taking heart from Peter Senior’s win at the Australian Open.
“Peter showed how to do it. That’s the great thing about the game – it doesn’t matter how old you are, if you get out there and hit a few good shots it’s a great experience.”
But another former halfback may have the final say. John Hart (a former Auckland halfback) and now Chairman of the NZPGA Organising Committee agrees it is great to have three of the worlds greatest halfbacks at The Hills next year.
“No matter how much talking they do it might well come down to who draws the best Professional partner. Justin will obviously be hoping to play once again with Brendan, but if George draws the right partner his superior golfing prowess might well get him home.”
Other sporting celebrities confirmed to play in the Tournament include cricketers Sir Ian Botham ,Tony Greig and Mark Richardson as well as World Amateur Number One Lydia Ko – more will be announced in coming weeks.