Japanese tour players add prestige to NZ Open

Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014

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Twenty professionals who ply their trade on the lucrative Japan Golf Tour will line up at the New Zealand Open in Queestown next month.

This is the first year the PGA Tour of Australasia, which will be staged at The Hills Golf Club and Millbrook Resort from February 27 to March 2, has formed an official partnership with the Japanese tour, one of the leading tours in the world.

As a result of this agreement the Open will host 11 Japanese professionals in addition to six Australians from that tour, and Kiwis Michael Hendry, David Smail and Richard Lee.

Leading the feature players is Japan's Toshinori Muto, who has won five times on tour between 2006 and 2012.

The world No 240 returns to Queenstown having played in the NZPGA Championship last year where he finished in a share of eighth.

Tournament director Michael Glading is pleased with the high calibre of professionals from the Japan Golf Tour.

"I understand that the Japan Tour players are really excited to come to Queenstown and to compete in the tournament that is going to be a memorable week both on and off the golf course."

As a result of the partnership the winner of the tournament (or, in the event it is won by an existing JGTO member, the leading non-exempt player) will be granted automatic entry into the 2014 Japan Golf Tour Championship and two further Japan Tour tournaments this year.

For rookie professionals like Ryan Fox, who is yet to gain a full card on a main tour around the world, the chance to earn playing rights in Japan is a huge bonus to winning the New Zealand Open.

"Not only is it a great event in a great part of New Zealand but the pathway leading to the Japan Tour for the winner only adds to the prestige of the event," the 25-year-old Auckland professional said.

There are significant world ranking points for Japanese Tour events.

"There is always a chance to have a couple of really good weeks and potentially play your way onto the Japan Tour for the following year. I am really looking forward to the NZ Open this year for both the event itself and the potential opportunities it can provide."

In 2013 the JGT co-sanctioned the Thailand Open and the Indonesian PGA events, with the New Zealand Open becoming the third event to join forces.

Japan Tour players lining up at the NZ Open: Toshinori Muto (Japan), Yuki Kono (Japan), Hiroshi Iwata (Japan), Sushi Ishigaki (Japan), Kurt Barnes (Australia), Steven Conran (Australia), Shinji Tomimura (Japan), Tetsuya Watari (Japan), Paul Sheehan (Australia), Matthew Guyatt (Australia), Takafumi Kawane (Japan), Takuya Taniguchi (Japan), Kazuhiro Shimuzu (Japan), Kazuo Sato (Japan), Kota Kagasaki (Japan), Michael Hendry (NZ), Richard Lee (NZ), David Smail (NZ), Brendan Jones (Australia), Ryan Heller (Australia).

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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