After tieing for fifth at the Australian Open Denzel Ieremia looks to have moved in ahead of Tauranga's Josh Geary, Mark Brown and Luke Toomey as the favourite at this week's Mount open.
Some of New Zealand's top professional golfers will tee off at Mount Maunganui Golf Club today for round one of the inaugural Christies Floorings Mount Open. The event, which is part of the Jennian Homes Charles Tour, will feature 128 players in the main field.
After four days and four rounds of golf, the winner of the season-long Jennian Homes Trophy will be crowned on Sunday and a new name etched on the new Mount Open trophy. The leading Amateurs will be awarded the Grant Clements Memorial Trophy.
Among those competing are Mount Maunganui's European Tour player Josh Geary, Tauranga's former European Tour winner Mark Brown and local professional Luke Toomey, who, if he secures a victory in his backyard will have scored three Jennian Homes Charles Tour events and the season-long points trophy that James Anstiss has had in his grasp for much of the year. Anstiss isn't teeing it up this week, and if Toomey finishes in a three-way tie for second or better, the trophy is his.
"It'd be pretty cool to take out that season-long title. It's New Zealand Golf's version of the FedEx Cup I guess and it's definitely something I'd like to be involved in," Toomey says.
"It'd be wicked to have James [Anstiss] here this week. When you want to win these things, you want to beat the guy who's leading head-to-head and when they're at the best. But the equation is pretty simple, win here and I win the Jennian Homes Trophy as well."
Mount Maunganui Golf Club general manager Michael Williams says there is plenty of local talent this week.
"We've got a few pros that live in the area here. You've got Luke Toomey, who's won the last two Charles Tour events, he lives locally, he plays and practises at both here and Tauranga so he'll be a local one to watch and Mark Brown, who's one of the other headline guys, he lives locally as well so they'll probably be the two local hopes I guess for a Tauranga, Mount-type victory," Williams says.
But it's a rising golf star who Williams says may well be the one to beat.
Ieremia is coming into the Mount Opem off a tie for fifth on the world stage, at his maiden Australian Open.
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"He's on the rise and that's a great result for him. He's all of a sudden leapt into probably favouritism for this week with that sort of performance because that was on the world stage, last week he was playing with guys who were major golf champions and top 50 in the world," Williams says.
Mount Maunganui Golf Club has been celebrating the coup of hosting rights for the Mount Open all week, with a PGA Trainee Golf Day and dinner on Monday, Player Practice Day, a junior event where players were teamed up with pro golfers and Official Tournament Dinner with guest speaker Sir Bob Charles.
"It's a big national event and there's not too many of these events around the country so it's a real coup for the club. The club, back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, used to host the New Zealand PGA Championships, so it's got a long rich history of hosting big tournament golf. It's been a while but now its just putting us back on the New Zealand golfing scene.
"Interestingly enough [Sir Bob Charles] won the New Zealand PGA championship here in 1979 which was 40 years ago exactly, so that's quite a nice little story that we've got Sir Bob back here 40 years later."
Mount Maunganui will host the tournament for at least three years but Williams hopes to secure it beyond that timeframe.
Play will get under way at 8am.
European Tour player Josh Geary.
Former European Tour winner Mark Brown.
Australian Open fifth placegetter Denzel Ieremia
Three event Jennian Homes Charles Tour winner Luke Toomey