Charles Tour event sponsor in for 'long term'

PETER LAMPP
Last updated 12:00 06/02/2013

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The LawnMaster Classic will not only be on the Charles Tour next year, but might be around for many more.

The key figure in all of this is Steelfort Ltd's managing director John McOviney, who provided the major cash backing for last week's four-day tournament.

He called it "a spectacular event" and the best one of the 26 tournaments his company has been involved with.

McOviney liked being able to mingle with the 48 professionals, having the pro-am on the Wednesday, having it played over four days and with the Manawatu Golf Club firmly in behind it.

"We will certainly be back next year," he said. "I think it will be an ongoing thing for us.

"If we get the support, I see it being long term.

"This was the most exposure the LawnMaster has got and I was thrilled to bits to see Grant Moorhead win one."

Steelfort had put a lot of money into the event over the years, and with the Higgins Group they are one of the biggest backers of the Manawatu Turbos rugby team. That will also continue this year.

"We're a local company and pretty parochial in terms of what's happening locally," McOviney said.

The pro-am tournament raised a lot of the prizemoney.

Four years ago he was disenchanted with the tournament and temporarily withdrew his support. The timing in October didn't suit and hence the move to February for last week's tournament was one of "the non-negotiables for me".

"We were very lucky with the weather," he admitted.

He is proud that after he and Manawatu president Ewan Westergaard mulled over the idea, it took only two years for the event to be born as the opening Charles Tour tournament of the summer.

NZ Golf chief executive Dean Murphy would like another two events on the Charles Tour, to take it to eight.

"It was great to have this tournament as part of the loop on a course of this quality," Murphy said.

"It gives players the ammunition to go on from the Charles Tour."

His staff ran the playing side of the tournament and would like to run it again next year

PGA of New Zealand spokesman Jim Clelland said it might be difficult to make the LawnMaster better than last week's.

Clelland hadn't been to the course for about 35 years.

"Driving in there it felt good, and there was a good feeling in the clubhouse."

He said if the prizemoney was there, even a little more to get the next level of pros, he would ensure the professionals turned up.

That week suited the PGA, in between the lower North Island pro-ams and before Palmerston North was sold out for the stockcar teams championships and the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting a week later.

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He said the spectator attendance eclipsed most other tournaments. Tauranga formerly got big numbers, but only if their Josh Geary was in contention.

The Manawatu club will review the tournament and Westergaard said it showcased what his club could do.

"People came to watch quality golf, these guys pitted against the best amateurs," he said. "Roll on 2014."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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