Bay of Plenty Golf has secured the rights to host the North Island Men's and Women's Strokeplay Championships - a coup that will help lift the profile of the sport in the region.
The events, which will be held in conjunction with the Bay of Plenty Open at Whakatāne between September 14 and 16, will be managed by both Bay of Plenty Golf and Whakatane Golf Club on behalf of New Zealand Golf.
With the strokeplay champs now running in conjunction with the Bay of Plenty Open Championship - the flagship event for the province since its inception in 1960 - Bay of Plenty Golf chief executive Chris McAlpine says the shift from provincial to national status will help raise the profile of the Whakatāne fixture.
In terms of tournament ranking, the North Island Men's and Women's Strokeplay Championships fall just below the National Championship and McAlpine says with the quality of golfers who attend, it can only mean good things for both Whakatāne and the Bay.
"If we do the job right and the numbers come it will justify it coming back again," McAlpine says.
Past winners are a who's who of New Zealand Golf and include the likes of Ryan Fox, Danny Lee, Josh Geary and Mark Brown. Apart from Lee and Geary, other recognisable Bay names on the trophy include Mike Nicholson, Owen Kendall, Mark Smith, Eddie Burgess and Bradley Iles.
With major events such as the Eisenhower Trophy about to get underway in Ireland but ending prior to the start of the North Island Men's and Women's Strokeplay Championships, McAlpine hopes to see some of the biggest names in amateur golf including Daniel Hillier and Kerry Mountcastle heading to the Bay for this event.
"They're played just before this event. Every country sends a team of three."
To secure the North Island Men's and Women's Strokeplay Championships, Bay of Plenty Golf had to make a submission to Golf New Zealand. Winning the rights proves there is faith the local group had the expertise to run it, he says.
"The infrastructure is there. The quality, of course, is important and Whakatāne is regarded as a very strong golf course. The standard of greens are always superb.
"That's a huge factor in hosting the course."
Accessibility with the Whakatane Airport, billeting support and a good supply of holiday homes available are just as important, he says.
McAlpine says overall, the Bay of Plenty was seeing a lot of growth in the sport.
He said memberships were increasing in the Western Bay of Plenty in particular, which he put down to the growth of the district as a whole. He said people were moving here from places such as Auckland, where subs to play could be triple the cost to play here. Another drawcard was the climate in the region.
"The busiest courses in the country are in the Western Bay ... Tauranga, Ōmanu and the Mount are ranked among the top."
The North Island Men's Strokeplay was first competed for in 1938 and, apart from a break during the war years, the 2018 event will be the 90th staging of the fixture.
The inaugural North Island Women's Strokeplay only took place in 2008 with Dana Kim winning during the event at Whakatane Golf Club. Following Kim, the next winner was Lydia Ko winning the first of three in a row as a 13-year-old.
McAlpine hoped the competition would be a success to strengthen Bay of Plenty Golf's bid to host future vents.
"I would hope we would get it every year."