Manawatu eyes pros' return

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:04 20/12/2012

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American-domiciled Manawatu professionals Tim Wilkinson and Craig Perks could yet spice up the LawnMaster Classic at Hokowhitu at the end of next month.

They have indicated their willingness to attend the first Charles Tour professional event of the year, if the organisers, the Manawatu Golf Club, can work it and afford to pay for their flights.

The other United States-based pro, Grant Waite, was also invited but is unlikely to attend.

Manawatu president Ewan Westergaard would like to see Wilkinson and Perks play. Wilkinson will be back on the American Web.com Tour next year and Perks seldom plays now he is commentating on television for the Golf Channel.

"Tim is confident he can come, but we won't be committing to anyone yet," Westergaard said.

The LawnMaster runs over four days from January 31 to February 3.

Wilkinson also hopes to pre-qualify for the USPGA Tour's second event of the year, the Hawaiian Open, from January 7 to 13 at Waialae, Honolulu.

His Web.com Tour starts with the South American swing, the first event in Panama on February 18.

However, the LawnMaster dates now clash with the New Zealand team heading to South Africa for the Ten Nations, and that includes the top two Manawatu-Wanganui players, Josh Munn and Tyler Hodge. "It's a real shame we don't have our two marquee players from our region, but it's great for them," Westergaard said.

Munn was the first amateur to win two Charles Tour tournaments, at Muriwai last year and Harewood (Christchurch) in October.

Westergaard expects most of the top Kiwi pros to play. He said Michael Hendry was keen - the Japan tour, for which he has now qualified, doesn't start until April.

And with no events conflicting in Australia, Mark Brown, Gareth Paddison and Ryan Fox should enter, but few Australians will be playing unless they are in the country for other reasons.

Westergaard would like a full field of 150, including about 15 women allocated by NZ Golf. "I want to make it a big festival, a marquee event for the region," he said. "It will be great to see all the pros back here again."

The purse is $40,000, with another $5000 in prizes for the amateurs. Steelfort is the main sponsor, with the pro-am event beforehand covering many of the costs. The operating budget is about $55,000 and the package includes a 7 -minute highlights reel on Sky's Golf Show.

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- Manawatu Standard

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