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

Golf: Brown nurses burning urge to win

Mark Brown.
Mark Brown.

On Sunday, November 25, 2012, Mark Brown seemed set to win the New Zealand Open.

No Kiwi golfer has won the Open since Mahal Pearce at Middlemore in 2003, and Brown entered the final round at Clearwater in Christchurch 15 months ago with a three-shot lead over a pair of Australians.

But when Brown needed his putter to work it didn't fire for him and he watched his advantage gradually evaporate as Australian amateur Jake Higginbottom won the title and Brown was forced to settle for fourth.

A visibly shattered Brown signed his scorecard, briefly spoke with reporters and was left to mull over another event that had got away.

Sadly, for one of the better golfers the country has produced in the past 20 years, letting opportunities slip had become a trend and the 39-year-old said righting those wrongs was what kept him in the game.

"Only winning, that's the only thing I've got an interest in and as long as I feel like I'm good enough to win then I'll definitely keep playing," Brown said. "I'm a pretty competitive sort of guy and I guess the frustrating thing for me over the years has been I felt like I've probably underachieved a lot.

I probably should have won potentially close to 10 tournaments around the world. So to have only won two on international tours is disappointing for me. So I'll always be trying to add to that tally, I certainly feel like I'm good enough to do that."

Which brings us to this week.

Last year had no New Zealand Open thanks to rescheduling and now the revamped tournament, which has a pro-am format, starts at The Hills and Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown, near Queenstown, on Thursday. It will also give Brown, a former European Tour regular, the opportunity to erase his 2012 Clearwater memories.

March could be the biggest month of the year for Brown, given its first two days include the final two rounds of the NZ Open, while he hopes for some good news about getting a couple of starts on the Web.com Tour.

Brown holds a conditional card on the second-tier circuit in the US and could find himself lining up in tournaments in Chile, Brazil or Panama as not all the US-based golfers play them, which leaves more spots open.

A good showing would help towards his potential status when a re-rank is done in late March, which will determine what tournaments players can start in the future.

Brown is one of a host of top Kiwi players in the field for this week's Open, including two-time NZ PGA champion Michael Hendry, former winner David Smail and veteran Gareth Paddison.

Long-time PGA Tour professional Rocco Mediate headlines the international field, while Australian Scott Hend and several Japanese Tour players will also play.


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