Golf fans young and old were delighted to see Sir Bob Charles stroll up to the first tee at Tauranga Golf Club today to open the Carrus Tauranga Open.
The fit and agile 81-year-old stroked a perfect draw with his driver up the middle of the fairway - just as he did during his remarkable career that netted him a major title and 73 others around the world including six wins on the USPGA Tour.
Charles said he loved to come back and play in the Pro-Am of the final event on the Jennian Homes Charles Tour named in his honour.
"This is a course I think I won twice on in the Spalding Masters and the weather is a whole lot better here right now in Tauranga than it is in Christchurch," he said.
"The main thing is I like to keep in touch with the Charles Tour and the sponsors Jennian Homes who are really promoting it well. This is where it all started with them and I am playing with their team today.
"I still enjoy a round of golf as long as the game doesn't beat me up too bad. It is good to be back."
The likely winner of the Carrus Tauranga Open could well come from the talented trio of Gareth Paddison, Josh Geary and Mark Brown, who filled the top three spots in the tour points race to be decided Sunday afternoon.
Paddison, like the great Charles was left handed, and after winning the last two Charles Tour events at the Akarana Open and Muriwai Open was after a hat trick of titles.
But locals with a penchant for winning at Tauranga would take some beating.
Tauranga-based touring pros Mark Brown and Josh Geary knew the course as well as any player and have both won the event three times.
"I haven't played that much lately but what I have played has been pretty steady," Brown said.
"I know how I am going to play the course. It's just the execution that is the question mark and we'll found that out. It is one thing knowing how to play it, you still have to hit the shots."
Brown, who shot 59 during his win in the 2014 event, was happy with the condition of the course after all the recent heavy rain.
"The greens look fantastic so I think the guys will enjoy that. It is a course that offers you a lot of birdie chances so it is just a matter of who takes those on the week really."
Geary was pleased to be back playing one of his home courses where he won the first of his three Carrus Tauranga Opens as an amateur in 2005.
"Obviously there are some good memories and some good wins here. My form has been good and have played a lot of Pro-Ams in the last few weeks and the New Zealand Open and New Zealand PGA," Geary said.
"I've been really busy and there are definitely some massive improvements going on. My golf game is in much better shape than it was when I last played here a couple of years ago."