Golf: England cricket greats to play NZ PGA Championship

Defending champion Michael Hendry. Photo / File
Defending champion Michael Hendry. Photo / File

Prime Minister John Key says a funding injection by the Government of $650,000 for the NZ PGA Championship next year is important to promote New Zealand on the world stage.

At a launch today for next year's event, the championship's chairman John Hart said the support of sponsors had led to an increase in prize money from $500,000 to $600,000 for the event.

Next year's championship will also see English cricketing celebrities Sir Ian Botham and Tony Greig tee-off in the pro-am.

The increased prizemoney elevates the tournament to a tier one status on the PGA Tour of Australasia and is expected to help attract "an even stronger international line-up" of golfers.

Mr Key said the funding, which is part of the Major Events Development Fund, was a "no brainer".

He said the event, in its second year, was "great ... for putting us on the world stage" and the funding was akin to "tourism promotion".

"We've really got to promote ourselves, particularly into that Asian market ... that is only one flight away," Mr Key said.

Tournament organisers said defending champion Kiwi Michael Hendry and top Australian golfer Brendan Jones, a two time winner on the Japan Golf Tour this year, would play at the 2013 NZ PGA Championship.

The tournament will be held at the Hills golf course near Queenstown from February 28 to March 3.

It coincides with the England cricket team's tour to play New Zealand in a four-day match at the Queenstown Events Centre.

The timing means the NZ PGA Championship was able to attract cricketers Sir Ian and Greig to play in the pro-am, Mr Hart said.

The flamboyant Sir Ian, known for his clean hitting on the cricket pitch, said he was thrilled to be involved.

"I look forward to once again returning to Queenstown, taking in the sights, sampling the fantastic local wines and food, playing golf in the NZ PGA Championship and supporting my beloved England cricket team. This is something I could not miss," he said.

More celebrities and professional golfers will be announced in the coming months, Mr Hart said.

Event sponsor Sir Michael Hill thanked Mr Key for the funding, which he said was "desperately needed".

Sir Michael said the event was important to target Japanese and Chinese tourists to New Zealand.

- APNZ

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