7 Dec 2011 - WWW.STUFF.CO.NZ - SIMON PLUMB
Prime Minister John Key admits he might tee it up in next year's NZ PGA Pro-Am at The Hills.
With the Government, through New Zealand Major Events, contributing $500,000 to the first-year launch of Michael Hill's new golf tournament announced yesterday, Key said his name was among a number of "celebrity amateurs" who hoped to play in the inaugural Arrowtown event in late March.
Key was non-committal on whether he would accept the invitation yesterday, saying his inclusion in the tournament would be subject to availability – and even then he might pull out.
"I might play, they've asked me to. It's subject to my diary and whether I chicken out," Key said.
"I'm improving. I do play but I've always been a bit of a bunny golfer. But I can kind of hit the ball OK."
Whether Key plays or not, the Government's commitment to Hill's latest venture looks almost certain to be worth significantly more than the initial half-million dollars.
In its first year the NZ PGA Pro-Am will be part of the Australasian PGA Tour, moving to the higher profile One Asia Tour from 2013.
In the past, Kiwi golf tournaments, including the New Zealand Open which Hill breathed new life into between 2008 and 2010 before the event moved to Christchurch this year, have struggled to find any kind of longevity or security.
But tournament director Michael Glading, former New Zealand Football chief executive and son of two-time New Zealand Open champion Bob Glading, said the concept was a long-term vision.
"This is a five-year term with an option of another five. In other words, the real intention is to secure this event long term," Glading said.
As for the professional playing field, Glading said he had already been in talks with world top 10 players, including Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day, and 2011 major champion Darren Clarke.
"The prize fund for year one is $500,000. In theory it will be a similar field to this year's New Zealand Open.
"It's also a week before the US Masters so a top 10 is out of the question, this year anyway."
The event will be held from March 29 to April 1.