Classic's status upgrade attracts high-quality field
An amateur field with an average handicap of scratch will grace the LawnMaster Classic when it tees off at the Manawatu Golf Club on Thursday.
The 85 amateurs, including 15 women, present probably the highest-quality field in the 26 years of the tournament.
That doesn't include the 50 professionals, making a total entry of 146 for the first Charles Tour event held at Hokowhitu.
The entry fee for the amateurs was $100, and $145 for the professionals.
In other years the LawnMaster clashed with events around the country but now it has No 1 status with New Zealand Golf and the best amateurs are strongly encouraged to enter.
"It readies them for the next step in their lives," tournament organiser and Manawatu president Ewan Westergaard said.
The event had been "reasonably well supported locally" but he noticed a few Manawatu-Wanganui players absent.
Westergaard has been able to delegate the running of the event to others, with NZ Golf essentially taking over the playing side on Thursday. So he will be playing.
It will be a culture shock for him playing a mere 18 holes a day over the four days. Amateurs traditionally grind out 36 holes each day.
"I will have to go back to work in the afternoon," he laughed.
Anyone under a 4-handicap got in the field and there are only half a dozen on the waiting list.
Charles Tour events usually accommodate 120 starters, but Manawatu was happy to take 26 extras.
Most of the country's top amateurs will be playing, outside Sam An and the four in the New Zealand team to South Africa. Those in South Africa will be Josh Munn, Tyler Hodge, Blair Riordan and Vaughan McCall.
The course is not long by today's standards and if the wind stays away, which is unlikely, the top amateurs and professionals should go low.
But if the wind gets up, it will affect the putting and the speed of the greens will be governed by the sloping, especially at the 10th and 14th.
Most of the amateurs are virtual semi-professionals and should be able to cope.
The top 60 players and ties after Friday's round make the cut. If the wind stays away, 12 to 15-under-par might be a winning score, perhaps four rounds in the 60s.
Manawatu's Trent Munn must be a chance after winning the New Zealand under-19 tournament last week. Other contenders are last year's winner Harry Bateman (Wellington) and the lowest handicapper in the field, Jordan Bakermans (Christchurch), who was with Josh Munn in Argentina last year.