Ahead of this week's New Zealand PGA Championship being hosted at Te Puke Golf Course, we asked Tauranga professional golfer Hayden Beard to cast his eye over the field and give us his thoughts on who to watch out for.
Locals expected to be in contention
Jared Pender: He is the head pro at Te Puke and is a multiple winner throughout New Zealand. Current course record holder at Te Puke, his local knowledge will prove very valuable come the weekend.
Josh Geary: Experienced professional around the world with four wins on the Jennian Homes Charles Tour. Josh is now working out of the Te Puke club with Jared Pender. Known for his exceptional wedge game, he will be one to contending around his new home track.
Jim Cusdin: Originally from Waikato, is now the head professional at The Clubroom Tauranga. Jim is known for his driving length off the tee. If he gets the putter rolling he will be one to watch.
Luke Toomey: Another Waikato-raised golfer who moved to Tauranga before turning professional four years ago. Has won three times on the Jennian Homes Charles Tour and most recently won the Platinum Homes DVS Pro-am held at Sherwood Park Golf Club with scores of 68, 63.
Mark Brown: Originally Wellington-based, but now calls Mount Maunganui home. Mark has four wins at the Carrus Open on the Jennian Homes Charles Tour. He is sure to be hitting it well tee to green, and likely to be contending down the stretch come Sunday afternoon.
Kieran Muir: A Bay of Plenty-based golfer who plays out of the Omokoroa Golf Club. He has won twice on the Jennian Homes Charles Tour. Keiran is the model professional and another consistent performance is likely around Te Puke which he will have played many times as a junior golfer.
Other Kiwi players to watch
Ryan Fox: Has a current European Tour card and has won once at the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth back in 2019. Ryan is currently ranked New Zealand's second best professional and is coming off back-to-back wins on the Jennian Homes Charles Tour. He has been in impressive form finishing 23 under par at The Clubroom Gulf Harbour Open and 25 under par at the Autex Muriwai Open. He hits it a country mile, so look out for some impressive drives as he will look to dominate the Par 5s.
Phillis Meti: Is a three-time World Long Drive Champion and is now working out of Boom Golf in Auckland. She will be one to watch as she will make short work of some of the par fours around the Te Puke layout.
Momoka Kobori: Recently turned professional after a very successful amateur career. She has won three times already this year in NZ PGA Pro Ams. Te Puke is a great layout for Momoka. The narrow fairways should allow her strength of straight drives to lift her into contention at the pointy end of the competition.
Darae Chung: Is one of the Wellington-based amateurs to watch in this event. Currently ranked second best amateur in the country, she has proved to be one to watch this year.
Kazuma Kobori: is still an amateur. He has past history with the event. He won the 2019 SEC NZ PGA Championship held at the Pegasus Golf and Sports Club when he was merely 17 years old. He will be one to watch.
Local amateurs players
Jessica Green: Is a young amateur playing out of the Futures Geyserland Junior Club in Rotorua with a handicap of +1.7.
Caitlin Maurice: Is a young amateur playing out of Tauranga Golf Club with a handicap of +1.0. Caitlin has a scholarship to attend college in America and will be heading off in August this year.
James Tauariki: A young amateur playing out of Te Puke Golf Club and is on a handicap of +3.7. Local knowledge of the course will provide an advantage over the field.
International Rookie Professionals
The opening up of the New Zealand-Australia travel bubble has allowed a number of Australians to be part of the NZPGA field - Blake Colyer, David Micheluzzi, Linus Yip, Blake Windred and Jack Thompson are in this group. This is fantastic as they are great players who are looking to take their game to bigger and better overseas tours in the coming years.