Taxpayer help being sought to televise Open

MATT RICHENS IN ARROWTOWN
Last updated 05:00 02/03/2014
Michael Hill
Photosport

COURSE GEM: Sir Michael Hill offered a $10,000 diamond for the first golfer to hit a hole in one on the 10th tee before the start of round one of the New Zealand Open.

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The Government needs to significantly up its investment if the New Zealand Open golf tournament is to boom to the levels Sir Michael Hill dreams of.

Hill, who owns the tournament's home course, The Hills, said the event was on the verge of being something "truly extraordinary" and he expected its popularity, growth and contribution to New Zealand's tourism market to snowball.

But for the event to take off it needs television coverage and Hill thinks the taxpayer should foot the bill.

One of the tournament's main drawcards is Hill's course and the breath-taking Arrowtown surrounds.

Without television coverage, their impact is obviously reduced.

The Government already puts in $900,000 to the event, which offers a $900,000 purse but costs closer to $1.8m to run.

Television coverage would cost about $600,000 and the highlights package and live streaming the event organisers are already springing for costs $200,000.

Hill said the $400,000 shortfall should be covered by the Government, but he also said organisers were grateful for the contribution they already received.

"And that is very generous, but it's not enough to allow us to televise the event. And that's the king-pin, that last little bit we need.

"The Government really needs to think about whether it considers this event sufficient to become an internationally recognised platform for their sponsorship. I personally think it's a no-brainer, but it's not for me to decide. We've got this stunning setting and not as many people get to see it as we would like.

"We have a unique place here, there's no doubt about that; everyone who comes here, even the golfers, it just blows them away."

The New Zealand Open is locked in in its current pro-am, two-course format at The Hills and Millbrook Resort for two more years and there is an option to extend it.

Hill plans to re-develop part of his course, add more statues and build a par-three course.

He wants the New Zealand Open to make The Hills its permanent home and he has one of the world's most famous golf clubs as his model. Hill wants to create a New Zealand Augusta, hence the par-three course.

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