WE had a subtle dig last week at the Kiwis for failing to win their national open for longer than most could remember and in true Land of the Long White Cloud tradition they’ve stormed back to take the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open for the first time since 2003.
Watching the final round at the Millbrook Resort in Queenstown on the weekend it seemed an Aussie would once again spoil the local party when 2011 champion Brad Kennedy birdied the par-5 17th to put himself in a very threatening position.
But there was also a birdie by Kiwi Ben Campbell on the same hole and that eventually saw a three way playoff after Campbell, Kennedy and Michael Hendry finished regulation play tied 19-under.
On the first playoff hole Hendry hit his tee shot on the par-3 18th to within five metres of the pin, and knew the dream was his after both Kennedy and Campbell put their shots into the water that surrounds the green.
Whilst the first three rounds were played in idyllic conditions at The Hills and Millbrook Resort, the final day was cool and windy with morning rain that made for a challenging day.
Hendry managed to hit 17 greens in regulation on the way to an outstanding 2-under 69.
He edged into the lead on the 10th hole and was never headed, although the playoff was required to determine the 98th winner of the Brodie Breeze Trophy – and the first New Zealander since Mahal Pearce in 2003.
“This is the one I wanted the most of any trophy and I’ve got it now,” Hendry said.
“I think for most of the Kiwis in the field – if it’s not one of the four (Majors), it’s this one. To have the New Zealand Open trophy and have my name on the NZ PGA trophy as well, it’s pretty sweet.”
“Once it had been decided that there was going to be a playoff I felt pretty comfortable. 72 holes are over and I was thinking to myself, just a few more shots.
“I was dead-keen to win the trophy hands down and obviously the New Zealand golfing public and golf fans around New Zealand are going to be pretty chuffed that a Kiwi has finally won it and I’m going to be chuffed that that Kiwi happened to be me.”
Hendry said his back-to-back eagles at the end of his round on Saturday were the key to his victory.
“That was the winning of the tournament this week. They gave me the opportunity to execute the game plan that I wanted today. Right then and there was when I won the golf tournament.”
Campbell, beaten in a playoff at the NZ PGA Championship last week, was again in a share of second here, but it was rich reward for a young man who has fought back from debilitating injuries that has thwarted a promising career.
“It’s been amazing how much support I’ve had this week from back home. I’ve had that many messages I haven’t been able to reply to all of them yet,” Campbell said.
“It was great having all that support out there this week and the crowds cheering me on definitely helped.
“My game’s been getting better and better. It’s been great working down here with John Griffin and all the support I have down here with sponsors and that sort of thing as well.”
Kennedy was super-steady throughout the day, recovering from a double bogey on the first hole to shoot an even-par 71.
Australian Deyen Lawson enjoyed an excellent tournament to finish in fourth on 18-under the card, a shot ahead of compatriot Jack Wilson.
Five players shared sixth place on 16-under 269 including New Zealand’s Ryan Fox, who shot 11-under par on the weekend sparked by his remarkable 63 on Saturday.
He shared this slot with defending champion Matthew Griffin, the 2014 winner Dimitrios Papadatos, and fellow Australians James Nitties and Andrew Dodt.
Fox, with top caddie Steve Williams on his bag for the first time, started the day seven shots behind and was left with too much ground to make up, finishing tied for sixth.
“I really enjoyed the week with Steve and learned a lot. Anything under par today was going to be a good score, so I’m happy with that,” Fox said.
New Zealander Ryan Chisnall collected the Bledisloe Cup as the tournament’s leading amateur, finishing at 3-under the card in a share of 58th place. Chisnall was the only amateur to make the weekend rounds.
For his win Hendry claimed AU$163,666 in prizemoney and is now second on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit behind ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth champion Brett Rumford.
From New Zealand the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia heads back to Australia for the Coca-Cola QLD PGA Championship to be played from 16-19 March at City Golf Club Toowoomba.
For all final scores from the 2017 ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open visit pga.org.au.
2017 New Zealand Open: Final Round Video Highlights