Special prize on show at New Zealand Open
The winner of the 101st New Zealand Golf Open on Sunday in Queenstown will receive a uniquely Kiwi honour.
Thanks to an agreement forged between the NZ Golf and NZ Maori Golf associations, the winner will be presented with an authentic korowai.
The ornate cloak will be passed over by the NZ Maori Golf champion Owen Lloyd.
He was adorned with the korowai when he won the title in January which also gave Owen automatic entry in the New Zealand Open field this week.
NZ Golf Chairman and Tauranga Golf Club President Michael Smith says it all came about through his association with Tommy Wilson from Tauranga’s Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust.
“In Tommy’s new found passion for golf he asked me down to the NZ Maori championships three years ago in Taupo. I played in the corporate day and had a really good day and then on to their celebration dinner,” says Michael.
“It was the night Phil Tataurangi got inducted into their Hall of Fame so I was part of that as well. While I was there I figured out there was no real connection between the organisations in terms of the commonality you would normally have running a tournament.”
Michael says the special features of the NZ Maori Golf tournament resonated with him and the aspirations NZ Golf have for widening the whole spectrum of who is playing golf.
“I really liked a lot of the kaupapa that went with it. You have big family engagement, really small kids playing in the field with their parents and their grandparents in an Ambrose-type format.
“Then on the other course you have the really talented playing off for the top prize. So within one tournament you had family and highly competitive players all going at the same time.
“I thought it was kind of unique and something that we as the governing body needed to be taking in more as it is very much an element of the growth of the game and the community-type aspect.”
Since his first involvement with the NZ Maori Golf event Michael has built up key relationships and understandings to the extent the two organisations are now working closely together at board level.
This closer relationship will be displayed in Queenstown on Sunday when the New Zealand Open winner is presented with the korowai by the NZ Maori champion.
Other new arrangements between the organisations include the NZ Maori Golf champion invited to play in the New Zealand Open and the High Performance programme to be rolled out to NZ Maori Golf through Tauranga-based NZ Golf High Performance coach Jay Carter.
Tommy Wilson, who was one of four Tauranga golfers to win a title at the NZ Maori Golf championships in January, says it is good for the country when you get the right people together working towards the same goal.
“This is a sports story with a bigger picture if you like. Up until I took Michael to Taupo there was a bit of a disconnect. Like any organisation when you bring the two cultures together it is more than just the sporting connection, it is bringing our two people together which is really cool.
“We have hosted two meetings between New Zealand Golf and New Zealand Maori Golf at our marae in Te Puna. That’s important.”