Kiwi legacy driving Michael Hendry to succeed

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2013
Michael Hendry
GRANT BRYANT/ Fairfax NZ
EXCITEMENT OVER FUTURE: Michael Hendry is looking well beyond his defence of the NZ PGA Championship title starting today at The Hills.

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Michael Hendry is looking well beyond his defence of the NZ PGA Championship title starting today at The Hills.

The New Zealand No 1 will leave on Monday for the second event of the World Golf Championship in Florida, courtesy of a second placing on last year's Australasian PGA order of merit.

However, it is his legacy in the New Zealand game that also drives Hendry.

"For me, when I set out, it was all about when I hung up the boots, I'd quite like to be regarded as one of New Zealand's best to have ever played the game," the 33-year-old Aucklander said.

"To do that you have to front and you've got to win your national opens and you've got to be ranked the best in the country and all the rest of it. To be part of New Zealand golfing history already, with a lot of my career to go, means a lot to me."

Hendry, ranked No 225 in the world, is excited about what the immediate future holds.

"It's the direction in my career I want to take. I don't want to be hanging around playing what I've been playing for the last few years.

"I want to make sure I'm progressing the whole time.

"Having a full schedule in Japan with the amount of money and world-ranking points that's up for grabs up there is going to allow me to further my career and, hopefully, go further in the rankings and play more and more events like next week, which is where I want to be.

"I want to be competing with the world's best and testing myself against them because that's really the only way you can get a true idea of how you are playing and how you are going in terms of the world game."

Hendry said The Hills course had played differently in practice from last year, with lush fairways contrasting with the dry Central Otago hills.

"It's a little softer compared with last year. I think they've poured quite a bit of water on it just to try and keep it a bit greener in areas. Last year, it was a bit burnt in areas. It's a little lusher at the moment but I think come the weekend, it will be pretty firm because I doubt they'll be pouring water on it as much as they have."

Hendry arrived in Arrowtown in good form after a runner-up finish at the Queensland PGA Championship last weekend but was wary of the competition.

"Ninety per cent of the field could win this week and it's all dependent on who's in good form and who executes their game plan properly. The person who does that, and handles the pressure on Sunday, comes out on top."

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Hendry begins his title defence on the 10th tee at 8am, in a group with Australian Michael Sim and Japan's Toshinori Muto, ranked No 123 in the world.

Muto, a five-time winner on the Japanese tour, has come to New Zealand to avoid the snow at home.

Speaking through an interpreter, Muto said he was enjoying the scenery and the condition of The Hills course.

He hopes to perform well this week, despite not playing competitively this season.

Australian Jake Higginbottom also hopes to perform well and add some more Kiwi silverware to his trophy cabinet after winning the New Zealand Open as an amateur and turning professional the following day last year.

"It would be fantastic to win the NZ PGA, especially as a professional. I'm really excited, just played the course just then and it looks really good."

The first groups start at 7.30am, with Gore amateur Vaughan McCall away from the first tee at 8.10am and Te Anau professional David Klein at 8.40am.

- Stuff

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