Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Golf: Turner winds back clock

Greg Turner is in a tie for seventh, five shots off the lead at the NZ PGA.  Photo / Getty Images
Greg Turner is in a tie for seventh, five shots off the lead at the NZ PGA. Photo / Getty Images

He last won the NZ PGA golf tournament 29 years ago and Greg Turner could be forgiven for focusing more on the number 50 these days.

Turner, who carded a fine five-under par 67 yesterday to move into a posse of golfers trailing leader Rohan Blizard, has just turned 50 and credits a conversation with grizzled pro Peter 'Chook' Fowler with sparking his interest in playing golf again.

Turner, a four-time winner on the European Tour between 1986 and 1997 and winner of the NZ PGA Championship in 1984, is in a tie for seventh, five shots off the lead - and says there is another low round in him today.

"I've hit a lot of good shots and if I can keep hitting the ball like that and make a few putts then I can shoot five, six, seven or eight under. So if I do that, that'll be fun."

Winning the same tournament 29 years apart and banking a $99,000 winner's cheque might also be pretty fun for Turner.

However, his impending entry to the European Seniors Tour is more than just about returning to competitive golf.

He experiences a bit of down time during the New Zealand winter in his course design business so joining the senior circuit means he can keep an eye on a few courses while he plays.

It's mixing business with business rather than business and pleasure and a discussion with Australian veteran Fowler last year made him believe he could play seriously again.

"I was thinking I really need to go and look at some golf courses and some new courses and then Peter Fowler suggested to me last year that I was playing well enough. I hadn't really thought about the seniors ... these things conspire and your 50th birthday ... it gets you thinking."

The European Seniors Tour begins in May and runs through to December and Turner has pencilled in the prospect of heading over for two stints.

He ended an eight-year hiatus from tournament golf when he played the Harewood Open on the Charles Tour last year and made the cut at the New Zealand Open at Clearwater in November before fading during the third and fourth rounds to finish 62nd. He lined up in this NZ PGA Championship at The Hills in Arrowtown, near Queenstown, his first tournament since last year's Open. He was in a share of seventh place at 10-under after three rounds.

Turner's impressive 67 at Sir Michael Hill's private course was bogey-free and included five birdies.

"I've been playing well," Turner said. "In fact I've been playing really nicely just in practice leading up. But you're never quite sure whether that's going to convert under tournament pressure. So I'm pleasantly surprised."

Turner is five shots back from leader Rohan Blizard who shot an impressive six-under 66 yesterday to head to 15-under the card. Blizard is one stroke ahead of defending champion Michael Hendry, while Australian Scott Strange is in third at 13-under and Leigh Deagan is in fourth at 12-under.

New Zealander Gareth Paddison is the next best Kiwi in a share of fifth place at 11-under with Chinese 17-year-old Li Haotong, while there's a host of players at 10-under alongside Turner in seventh equal.

The tournament moved into its pro-am format yesterday and Kiwi Michael Long and amateur playing partner Chris Hunter lead the team standings at 11-under.

- APNZ

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