Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Marketers serving up NZ's sights at tee time

Influential connections between business and golf have been at the core of planning around the NZ Open since the format changed and shifted to the Millbrook resort. Photo / Supplied
Influential connections between business and golf have been at the core of planning around the NZ Open since the format changed and shifted to the Millbrook resort. Photo / Supplied

When it comes to business, there's no prescriptive agenda for smoothing partnership deals.

Sometimes details are best sorted behind closed doors with a bevy of advisers while others fit more comfortably into the golfing landscape with arrangements talked through between time on the tee box, the putting surface and drinks in the clubhouse.

When diary dates aligned, former US President Barack Obama hosted Prime Ministers David Cameron, Najib Razak and John Key on course and another golf fan, Donald Trump, has twice played rounds with Japan's Shinzo Abe since Mr Trump took up residence a month ago in the White House.

Influential connections between business and golf have been at the core of planning around the NZ Open since the tournament changed format and shifted to Queenstown, where it will be hosted next week at the Millbrook resort.

All sports have been forced to adjust their traditional thinking as a range of issues impacted on their popularity.

Test cricket has been played at night with a pink ball, tennis has variations on the Hawkeye technology, rugby has become a 23-man game, football has gone for goal-line technology and transtasman bowls embraced a quickfire format in Auckland.

Golf is popular but struggled to sustain several professional tournaments each year. Luring Tiger Woods to play at Paraparaumu 15 years ago was a coup fired by great assistance from his caddy Steve Williams, however the sport could not sustain paying appearance money to him or others.

The tournament struggled until the NZ Open was remodelled in 2014 as a partnership between the NZPGA and Open organisers and became the first national championship in the world to use a pro-am format. Prizemoney was bumped up, appearance fees dumped and the government invested nearly seven figures from its major events fund.

Critics suggested the tournament was a pampered project embraced by golf-loving Prime Minister Key but the event developed through three years at the Hills course with renewed investment from here and overseas and is pushing towards new targets as it shifts headquarters to the nearby Millbrook course.

Links between golf, tourism and commerce throughout Asia have intensified with extensive daily live television coverage projected to reach 700 million viewers in households throughout Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

As competitors go about their business in search of the 98th NZ Open title, live television coverage will showcase the magnificent scenery to an Asia-Pacific audience as the tentacles of sporting commerce stretch further afield.

The professional purse has passed the $1m mark and ISPS Handa headline a substantial range of sponsors from NZ, Japan and Korea while amateurs from around the globe pay a significant fee to play alongside a range of sports stars and professionals.

Former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting is a scratch golfer travelling for the event along with Shane Warne, Allan Border and Ian Botham who will get local heat from Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum and Jeff Wilson.

Shot putter Tom Walsh will give it a nudge with Grant Fox, Sir Russell Coutts, Kiwi restaurateur Josh Emmett and Japanese baseballer Masumi Kuwata while Williams will host a caddy clinic before he carries the bag for leading Kiwi Ryan Fox.

Major winners Heath Slocum and YE Yang are in the field alongside 11 NZ Open winners including David Smail, Michael Long and Grant Waite.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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