Two of the biggest names in New Zealand golf over the last 20 years are the headline acts in the Pump Mount Pro-Am at Mount Maunganui today. Mark Brown, who represented New Zealand with Ryan Fox at the World Cup in Melbourne three weeks ago, will play in what is now his local tournament. The former Wellingtonian has been living in the Mount in recent years.
Also in the field, and returning to his home club, is European Tour player Josh Geary. Although making more than 100,000 Euros during the year, Geary had to return to the qualifying school where he just missed gaining full exemption to the 2018-19 European Tour.
Geary is off to a good start in the current season though, and tied for 19th at the co-sanctioned Australian PGA two weeks ago.
Neither are in contention for the NZPGA Order of Merit (OOM) title, which is decided today in the year's final event.
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That will be won by Nelson's Ryan Chisnell who only turned professional a year ago. The former New Zealand Amateur star earned $21,834.26 this year and currently lies second behind Otago's James Anstiss on the OOM. But Anstiss is at the final qualifying school for the Australian Tour and won't be at Mount Maunganui to complete the minimum requirement of eight events needed to qualify for the New Zealand OOM.
Local stars Hayden Beard and Keiran Muir are also at the Australian Q school and won't be playing today either.
"Clashing with a Q school is just life in professional golf," says the Mount Maunganui Golf Club general manager Mike Williams.
"It's a shame we don't get those three guys, but it's great having Mark and Josh here, and last year's Order of Merit winner Harry Bateman too, because they already have places to play next year."
There are 35 pro and 30 teams of three amateurs who'll play in the $10,000 event.
Williams says the course is in great condition "before it starts to burn off during the hot summer".
This is the final year of the Mount Pro-am in its current format. Next year the event will expand to a four day 72-hole event on the Charles Tour, the Christies Flooring $50,000 Mount Open.