Golf: Smail to headline Akarana Open

David Smail tees off during the NZPGA Golf Championship. Photo / Getty Images
David Smail tees off during the NZPGA Golf Championship. Photo / Getty Images

As we near the end of summer with only two legs of the Jennian Homes Charles Tour remaining, the highly anticipated Akarana Open is here.

Backing up the impressive line-up at the Lawnmaster Classic last month, where Michael Hendry prevailed to become the back to back champion, the Akarana Open is proving the national tour is in safe hands with an extremely strong field arriving this week.

Headlining the week is the return of David Smail who will play in his first ever Jennian Homes Charles Tour event.

The 2001 New Zealand Open Champion has had a successful 20 year career on the Japan Tour (which included five victories) and remains one of the country's best golfers.

Surprisingly this is his first Charles Tour event, which shows the tour is being used by golfers of all levels and for many different reasons. Smail is looking to earn back his Japan Tour card after a difficult 2015 season and will use the Akarana Open to hopefully spring into form.

He will have a couple of interesting battles on his hands this week, with the obvious being against defending champion Gareth Paddison who is looking to join Hendry as a back to back event winner. Smail will also have a highly personal battle on his hands. After caddying for his son, Charlie, at the recent Amateur Stroke Play Championship he will now lock horns with him on the course in a father and son affair.

At the age of 17, Charlie is new to the Jennian Homes Charles Tour and will be looking to gain more experience in the hope of following in his father's footsteps.

However Gareth Paddison will be eager to make a fairytale of his own and defend his Akarana Open title after winning by a convincing four shot margin last year.

"I am really enjoying being back.

The course is looking very nice as well so looking forward to getting out there again," said Paddison.

"I have been solid for a while and just not getting anything out of the round, I have had the odd good round casually and then a couple of good rounds in tournament golf which is quite encouraging so it's just piecing it all together is the goal this week."

The Jennian Homes Trophy is now only two tournaments away from finding its inaugural champion. Jim Cusdin is currently leading the charge, even after missing the recent Lawnmaster Classic. Cusdin's regular form and tournament entries have been key to holding top spot and also portrays exactly what this trophy is about; consistency.

The talent is endless this week with Mark Brown, Dan Pearce, Nick Gillespie, Kieran Muir and new professional Josh Munn making appearances, so Akarana Golf Club can expect a few galleries to watch the golfers on show.

The late omission of Ryan Fox comes with mixed emotions. Fox was a great draw card for the Akarana Open but has shot over to Spain after gaining late entry into the Spanish Open which is a great opportunity for him. This also portrays another unique angle to the Jennian Homes Charles Tour, seeing a player go from our national tour to one of the biggest events on the European Tour, all in the space of 48 hours. Once again showing the great pathway produced here in New Zealand.

We also have a unique situation this week with Cathryn Bristow competing in the men's field. Bristow will be playing for the same prize purse, just on a 90% course size this week which adds an exciting element to the tournament.

Bristow is eyeing up the chance to play at the Olympics alongside Lydia Ko later this year, but to do so she needs to show consistency and shoot some low numbers to book her ticket to Rio.

Chantelle Cassidy will be looking to continue her dominance after a sensational summer thus far. If Cassidy were to win the Akarana Open this week, it would make it four events on the trot with three Jennian Homes Charles Tour victories as well as her recent National Stoke Play title.

Akarana is one of the closest courses to the city and will no doubt attract galleries throughout the weekend to witness New Zealand's best players on the biggest tour.

- NZ Herald

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