2013 New Zealand Open golf won't go ahead

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 06/07/2013

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The New Zealand Open men's golf tournament will not be played this year.

While nothing has been confirmed by any of the parties involved, all the evidence suggests the flagship tournament will not be held at the Clearwater Golf Course like originally planned.

Rumours have surfaced of the tournament moving all together, but Fairfax Media understands it will stay at Clearwater, but move to an early 2014 date.

A contractor charged with finding sponsorship for the tournament in the past had not yet been contracted and the club itself has not had the dates for this year's event confirmed. New Zealand Golf (NZG) are holding a press conference in Auckland next Tuesday which it's believed has been called to confirm a change of date for the event.

There are still currently dates free on the PGA Tour of Australasia calendar at the end of October and start of November, but hosting the 106-year-old tournament then - as scheduled - poses major problems.

Firstly, the 15 districts that make up NZG are known to be unhappy with their parent organisation ''wasting'' money on the marquee tournament in a climate where, they feel, the money could be better spent on the grassroots game which is struggling.

It was reported NZG posted a loss of $533,542 last year. 

''This came as a major surprise after they indicated at their November 2012 Districts' Forum that the loss would be about $88,000,'' wrote Canterbury Golf boss Grant Lewis in his April newsletter following this year's district forum.

''The NZ Men's Open continues to be a millstone around their neck, with the total loss on the event rising to $397,000 for the 2012 [tournament].''

By pushing the tournament back until 2014, NZG won't take the same financial hit this year. It's paper shuffling, but it is understood to be a compromise many of the districts will be happy with though the association heads had not been informed.

There has also been a change in mentality at NZG. In recent years, they have tried to run the New Zealand Open at a similar time to the ''Big Three'' Australian tournaments to piggyback off the Australian PGA, the Australian Masters and the Australian Open tournaments.

Their aim was to lure some of the top players who played in those tournaments to New Zealand. It didn't work; those big three Aussie tournaments are run over five weekends, and with the rise of the Perth International a week earlier, many top Australian players were using New Zealand Open week as a week off. 

This year will not be the first time a New Zealand Open has been missed. There were no tournaments in 1990 or 2008 and two were played in 1995, all because of rescheduling.  

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By running the New Zealand Open in the early part of next year, it is likely to be more closely aligned to the New Zealand PGA tournament. A date for that tournament is yet to be confirmed too, but it ran this year from February 28 to March 3. 

An announcement on that tournament is also expected at Tuesday's meeting.

Meanwhile, it is also understood the New Zealand Women's Open's future is looking a lot healthier. A source close to the tournament said Clearwater was looking ''very, very likely'' for the next three years and the Christchurch City Three Year Plan has funding allocated to the tournament also.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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