Celebrities set the stage for golf open

JOHN EDENS AND GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 05:00 27/02/2014
Ricky Ponting
TEEING OFF: Ricky Ponting

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Celebrity players teed off to mark the start of New Zealand Open festivities with a longest-drive crowd-puller and a lakeside contest in Queenstown Bay yesterday.

The Callaway longest-drive competition in Earnslaw Park gave golf fans the chance to watch former All Black Justin Marshall, Aussie cricket great Ricky Ponting and former Black Caps captain Stephen Fleming in action.

Then, in a lakeside tee contest, players lined up to have go at hitting a ball from Earnslaw Park over Lake Wakatipu in an effort to drive a ball on to a pontoon.

Funds raised will be donated to help youth golf. The occasion was the latest in the annual celebrity fun and games start to the contest, which tees off officially today. Last year organisers got runway clearance to stage the longest-drive contest at Queenstown Airport.

Yesterday, Prime Minister John Key confirmed he would be playing a non-competition round during the final round at The Hills on Sunday.

Tournament organisers agreed to include a special celebrity group - Kiwi golfer Sir Bob Charles, Mr Key and a third yet-to-be-named player - for the non-competition fun.

The celebrity trio are expected to tee off on Sunday at 10am.

Meanwhile, back at the tournament hub, Sir Michael Hill's plush Arrowtown course The Hills, last-minute preparations were going to plan.

The jewellery magnate told assembled nationwide media that the tournament was well on course towards achieving his goal of it becoming the most significant golfing event in the country.

He also said major earthworks at the venue post-tournament would "seal this as a significant course".

The changes would be complete in time for next year's event, and the already considerable range of high-end sculpture which decorates the course would be expanded, "depending on Michael Hill share prices", he said.

 

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- The Southland Times

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