Golf: Turner back at NZ Open for first time in 10 years

Greg Turner. Photo / Getty Images
Greg Turner. Photo / Getty Images

Greg Turner credits the New Zealand Open for changing his career.

The two-time champion, who played his first competitive tournament in eight years recently at the Harewood Open on the Charles Tour, has taken his comeback a step further by signing up for the New Zealand Open at the Clearwater Golf Club from November 22 -25.

The 49-year-old, who plans to join the Senior European Tour in 2013 when he turns 50, is playing his first New Zealand Open in 10 years.

He last played in 2002 at Paraparaumu Beach when World No 1 Tiger Woods made a controversial appearance.

The four-time winner on the European Tour retired from professional golf in 2004 to spend more time with his family.

He has since forged a successful course design business with Scott Macpherson called Turner-Macpherson design.

He was quick to temper any expectation or prospects of becoming a three-time champion at New Zealand's premier golf tournament.

"It would be incredibly optimistic to suggest that I would be in contention to win. I would be happy if I made the cut," said Turner from his home in Central Otago.

"But I guess golf is a funny game and you never know. I never thought I would play the New Zealand Open again so it should be an interesting week."

In his time away from the game Turner has had plenty of time to reflect and he said winning the New Zealand Open at Paraparaumu in 1989 and Middlemore in 1997 were both significant moments in his life.

"The win in 1989 at Paraparaumu was huge really and a massive turning point for me," he said.

"I was having a really tough couple of years and was struggling with a swing change that I had been working on since May that year. I was really battling and my confidence was really low. That win turned everything around and helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"It is impossible to overstate how important that win was for me - it changed my whole career really.

"I went from being short of confidence in a swing change to winning the NZ Open and then I went to the World Cup of Golf in Europe with Simon Owen and we played really well to finish sixth and then I went to European Tour School and two weeks later got my card back. It was a massive turning point and I will always remember that moment when I won my first New Zealand Open.

"In 1997 - I just remember playing really well all week and that week was the catalyst to me playing some of the best golf in my career. I won late in '97 and went onto play in The Presidents Cup which was one of the standout moments of my career."

Turner, in his low-key way, said he is not entirely sure what has inspired him to play the New Zealand Open.

"It's a big event, an important event and it's going to be great to test myself in that environment. You can't create those circumstances without playing big events and that is what I am looking for."

Turner already holds a special place in New Zealand golf history. Sir Bob Charles, who won the title four times (1954, '66, '70 and '73), is the only Kiwi to have won more titles in the post-war era.

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