The New Zealand Golf Open is returning to Queenstown next year in a move that will water down the New Zealand PGA Championship.
The Open tournament, a tier one event on the PGA Tour of Australasia, will be held from February 27 to March 2 at The Hills Golf Course and Millbrook Resort and will now also be co-sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour.
It will include a unique pro-am format played concurrently with the professional tournament following the principles established for this year's PGA Championship.
The purse for the event will be a minimum of $850,000 but that figure will be finalised once current stakeholder negotiations have been concluded.
A return to Queenstown is the result of New Zealand Golf, the PGA of New Zealand and Michael Hill Tournaments Limited coming to an agreement on the future structure of major men's golf tournaments in New Zealand.
The parties have agreed to pool resources with the aim of creating one iconic tournament but it means the New Zealand PGA Championship, a tournament that was won by Kiwi Michael Hendry this year, will initially be continued on a smaller scale.
Under the agreement, NZ Golf has licenced MHTL to organise and take full responsibility for the New Zealand Open for an initial period of three years.
Paul Fyfe, the Chairman of New Zealand Golf, noted that this is an important moment for New Zealand's premier golf tournament.
"The New Zealand Open has a rich and diverse 106-year legacy and we are excited by the potential for the event to flourish in Queenstown,'' Fyfe said.
"We believe that this will be a world first for a national Open championship to incorporate a pro-am format and it will be an exciting new era for the New Zealand Open.
"We would like to sincerely thank Christchurch City Council and Clearwater Golf Resort for their support over the past two New Zealand Opens. These events have been wonderful for the city and achieved much for the game of golf. Christchurch remains a wonderful place to host golf events and we look forward to working alongside the city to deliver the New Zealand Women's Open and other events in Christchurch for years to come.''
John Hart, the tournament chairman on behalf of MHTL, said this was a landmark agreement by all parties involved.
"We are thrilled that New Zealand Golf and the NZPGA have taken a `whole of golf' approach and have recognised that New Zealanders will be well served by having one premier golf tournament that can compete on an international scale,'' said Hart.
The arrangement with the JGTO means 15 top Japanese players will take part in the New Zealand Open and the winner will score entry to a selection of tournaments on the lucrative Japan Tour.
- The professional field of 132 players will play the first two rounds on both The Hills and Millbrook Resort ahead of the second round cut, with 60 Professionals (plus ties) returning to The Hills for rounds three and four.
- The NZ Open Champion will be the leading player after 72 holes of stroke play competition.
- The NZ Open has formed a partnership with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation. The tournament will provide 15 positions in the field for current tour members of the JGTO.
- In return the JGTO will provide the winner of the NZ Open with automatic entry into the Japan Golf Tour Championship and two other events on the Japan Golf Tour.
- The invitation will extend to the NZ Open champion or the highest placed player who is not already a member of the Japan Golf Tour.
- The New Zealand Open remains a PGA Australasian Tour event.
- An exclusive pro-am championship will run concurrently to the NZ Open and will be held over four rounds, with rounds one and two at The Hills and Millbrook Resort, and rounds three and four at The Hills.
- After two rounds, the pro-am teams will be cut to the leading 30 teams (and ties) who will play the third round at The Hills. At the end of the third round the Pro-Am teams will be cut to the leading 10 teams (and ties) who will contest the final round of the New Zealand Pro-Am Championship at The Hills, alongside the NZ Open final round.
- This format will see amateur players competing in the thick of the action alongside the players contesting one of New Zealand's oldest sporting titles.