Hills course champs hot topic among pros

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2013
NZPGA
GRANT BRYANT/Fairfax NZ
SPREADING THE WORD: Golf stars Hale Irwin, left, and Toshi Muto on arrival at Queenstown Airport yesterday. Both are attending the tournament after tipoffs from close friends and fellow top-flight players.

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The word that the NZ PGA Champs at Arrowtown's The Hills course is a hot ticket is spreading among the tight-knit world of professional golfers, two of the tournament's stars say.

Fresh from landing at Queenstown Airport yesterday three-times US Open winner and World Golf Hall of Fame member Hale Irwin said he had the tipoff to "get to The Hills" from close friend and New Zealand golfing great, Sir Bob Charles.

"Certainly we've heard a lot from many of our friends, especially Bob, that The Hills and the Queenstown area are all amazing, and with the NZ PGA being played here, it's a great opportunity to play in a really great tournament," he said.

If all lived up to his expectations he would definitely keep spreading that word.

"I've heard enough about the course to be intrigued, and am anxious to see it. All of us in the golf world, when we play a great course, we want everyone else to hear about it, so no doubt the word will keep on spreading."

Fresh off a long-haul flight he said was "too long", the golfing legend said he had ensured he would have some leisure time after the tournament - but would be missing his wing-man, son Steve.

"My son had to pull out at the last minute because of some business commitments, but we were scheming up to have a really grand trip and get away and do some fishing. That'll still happen, just without my son."

Rising Japanese golf star and 103 in the world rankings Toshi Muto also entered the tournament after a tipoff from close friend Brendan Jones, who ranks 80th in the world, and after playing last year, has become a major mouthpiece for the tournament among top-flight players.

"I hadn't really heard much about New Zealand, but Brendan said I really should get here for the NZ PGA because of the great course and because it's an amazing time.

"Unfortunately I will not have any time to have a holiday as well, because I have to play in the Japan Tour straight after this."

He had no doubt he would have a good time, and would also spread the word that entering was a must, he said.

The tournament is only in its second year at The Hills, and will be held at the course, owned by jewellery magnate Sir Michael Hill until at least 2016.

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- The Southland Times

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