Smail to return from Japan for NZ Open
New Zealand No 3 David Smail will play in the New Zealand Open next month.
With the country's top two ranked golfers, Danny Lee and Michael Campbell unlikely to play, Smail's confirmation comes as a big plus for tournament promoters and New Zealand Golf.
Smail, who spends most of his time on the Japanese Tour, is ranked 376 in the world and is one of three past winners - including 1995 winner Peter O'Malley and the last New Zealand winner, Mahal Pearce, the 2003 champion - confirmed to play in the November 22-25 tournament.
Smail, who won in 2001 at The Grange in Auckland, said that title was a major kickstart for his career. He followed up with a victory in Sydney at the Canon tournament and then finished second to Campbell at the Johnnie Walker.
"I went up to Japan and won the Japan Open in 2002 and that really sparked things and I had a few more wins."
Smail played in the tournament last year but finished tied for 25th at five over par - 12 shots behind Australian winner Brad Kennedy.
Smail has been a professional golfer for 20 years but is adamant he still has plenty left.
"It has been a great career and I hope that there are still some highlights to come.
"But yeah, I will always look back on that win at The Grange as a really special moment."
In form Kiwis, Michael Hendry, Ryan Fox and Mark Brown have will also play in the tournament, while 10 qualifying spots are up for grabs.
Russley Golf Course will again hold a one-round shootout, on Monday November 19.
New Zealand Open Tournament director Dave Mangan said the qualifying tournament was the perfect chance for locals to gain a late place for the 72-hole event.
"From memory, seven of the 10 successful players from final qualifying last year were New Zealanders," he said. "Every time we host qualifying a great story emerges and I'm sure that this year will be no different.
"Whether it's a very young player, a local member or a PGA teaching professional, it does give a chance at a once in a lifetime experience."
Schoolboy Jason Yoo and former world No 1 amateur Marcus Wheelhouse both earned spots in the main draw from the Russley qualifying tournament last year.
❏ Three schoolboys have been named in the Canterbury men's team to play in the men's South Island interprovincial tournament this weekend in Dunedin. Yoo (Christ's College), Oscar Cadenhead (Christchurch Boys' High) and Michael McAuley (St Bede's) will all play in the tournament which doubles as an important trial for the national provincial teams competition, also at Otago Golf Club's Balmacewen course.
A replacement for Canterbury No 1, Jordan Bakermans, who will be playing in South America, has not been selected. The Canterbury side will play matchplay against Southland, Otago, Aorangi/South Canterbury and Tasman. Owen Burgess and Tom Turner, both members of last year's Canterbury team from nationals, and reserve Harry Bateman will also represent the province this weekend along with Templeton's Sam Purdon and Daniel Laughton.
Meanwhile, the Canterbury team went unbeaten and won their latest quadrangular tournament, against Tasman, Wellington and North Harbour last weekend, in Nelson.
The Pegasus Golf Club has been named as a finalist in Friday's Canterbury Sports Awards.
This year's New Zealand Women's Open will be up against the Christchurch Airport Marathon and the Bike NZ road race nationals in the Sports Event of the Year category.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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