To have the first tee shot to open New Zealand's premier golfing tournament in front of the country's best golfers has got to be nerve-wracking.

This was the situation Northland golfer Luke Brown found himself in at his first New Zealand Open, which was also in its 100th year.

"It was quite an unforgettable experience," Brown said.

"There were a few first-tee nerves and the temperature was pretty cold at about 2degrees Celsius so it took a few holes to get the body warmed up and moving."

Advertisement

The Queenstown-based tournament, which ended on March 3, was the pinnacle of the New Zealand golfing calendar, featuring prestigious names such as Kiwi Michael Campbell and South Korean K.J. Choi.

Brown, an amateur, finished tied for 114th after not making the cut of 63 players, shooting two rounds of 72 and 73 to finish at two-over par. Over the two rounds, he was partnered with world shot put champion and recent Halberg supreme athlete award winner Tom Walsh.

Luke Brown tees off on the tenth during round two of the 100th NZ Open at Millbrook Resort on March 1. Photo / Marty Melville
Luke Brown tees off on the tenth during round two of the 100th NZ Open at Millbrook Resort on March 1. Photo / Marty Melville

"I'd played with [Walsh] at a tournament before so I knew him well enough which was cool," Brown said.

"He's a really good guy and, in terms of golf, is pretty cool to see him out there playing, going from shot put to golf."

Brown went through a qualifying tournament to be eligible for the national competition. Out of 62 competitors, Brown finished second to take up one of the four qualifying spots available.

"Coming through qualifying was quite a good way to get there because I had to work for it instead of getting an invite," he said.

"I haven't played since the start of January, so to come out and shoot five-under to qualify was pretty special."

While Brown was disappointed not to make the cut, he said the experience of his first Open was enough to make it enjoyable. In the first round, Brown was four-over par through nine holes before bringing it back to even-par which was a good effort on a notoriously difficult course.

Brown's good form in the qualifying rounds had come after two close finishes where he was mere shots away from qualifying for the Australian Open.

Advertisement

"Those were two pretty tough pills to take, but moving on now, I've learned from my mistakes so you can see how it's developed from struggling to finish to now getting through."

About five weeks ago, Brown had switched coaches from Marcus Wheelhouse to North Shore Golf Club member Jacques Nortje. Brown said Wheelhouse, who also coached Kiwi golfer Ryan Fox, was a great mentor but that it was time to move on.

"I worked with [Wheelhouse] for four years and it was all good stuff so it didn't end on bad terms, but it was just time for a change to someone that was around me a lot more often."

With Wheelhouse often occupied by other golfers, Brown found it hard to spend a sufficient amount of time with him and felt the change to Nortje would be a good one.

"As soon as I made the Open, Jacques was on the phone asking what my plans were so it's a really exciting partnership we've got going on and I'm excited to see where it goes."

Brown will next compete in the New Zealand Stroke Play Championship in Christchurch on March 21 before travelling to Auckland for two club tournaments in April. Brown hoped to build on the momentum of his Open experience and make his mark on New Zealand's golfing scene.

"I've done these tournaments all before so it's just about playing well and I've been getting some results at them in the past so it's about time I get close or win one."