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Charge of the Wairarapa brigade

Ben Campbell. PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES

Campbell aims high for NZ Open

GOLF

ELI HILL
[email protected]

Wairarapa has a strong contingent going into the biggest event on the New Zealand golfing calendar.

Professionals Ben Campbell and Harry Bateman, as well as amateur Kerry Mountcastle, are putting the finishing touches on their preparations for the 100th New Zealand Open starting today.

A field of 152 professionals from 17 countries and an equal number of amateurs will take to the Millbrook Resort and The Hills golf courses in Queenstown for the tournament, which is co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Asian Tour.

The tournament features 12 former champions, including New Zealanders Michael Campbell, David Smail, and Michael Hendry as well as reigning champion Australian Daniel Nisbet.

Another three former champions with seven New Zealand Open titles among them, took part in the special Par 3 event at The Hills yesterday – four-time winner Sir Bob Charles, two-time champion Greg Turner and Mahal Pearce.

Kerry Mountcastle

It is Mountcastle’s first New Zealand Open and the 23-year-old said he was excited at the opportunity to play with former open winners.

The NZ Open’s pro-am format lets the professional golfers compete for the New Zealand Open title while simultaneously a pairing of one professional and one amateur will play a best-ball format for the New Zealand Pro-Am Championship.

“It’s great to be playing at our own national championships, the fact it’s the 100th and Michael Campbell is making his return to golf just lifts it to another level.

“If I get to play with one of the previous major winners [US Open winners Michael Campbell and Geoff Ogilvy and US PGA winner YE Yang] that’d just be awesome.”

Mountcastle is the top-ranked amateur in Wairarapa, third in New Zealand and 361st in the world.

The Masterton golfer, who won last year’s Tauranga Open and New Zealand Stroke Play Championships, and was runner-up in the New Zealand Amateur championship, finished fifth in the recent Hastings Open.

He was also in the team who went to Ireland and finished fourth in last year’s Eisenhower Trophy – last won by New Zealand in 1992 with a team of Michael Campbell, Phil Tataurangi, Grant Moorhead and Stephen Scahill.

Mountcastle, an electrician, who is now playing golf fulltime said he was looking at going pro – it was just a matter of when.

“I’m definitely looking at it. I’m not entirely sure when, but I do know it’s on the horizon for me.

“My big goal has always been to win a major and turning pro is a step towards that.”

Masterton professional Joel Macklin, who has been coaching Mountcastle over the past five to six years, will caddy for him in the Open.

Macklin said felt Mountcastle’s decision to train fulltime was paying off.

“He’s always been pretty good but particularly since he’s given up working to focus on his game, he’s really picked up.

“He’s definitely got what it takes to go pro, it’s just a question of when he’s ready.

“One of his good traits is he’s a big game player and actually seems to do best when he’s playing in these big events.”

Harry Bateman

Macklin said the region hadn’t had such a large contingent in a while.

“I would say for a small town, Masterton is definitely punching above its weight — we’re producing some quality golfers.

“It’s also cool for our members to be able to watch it on television and say, ‘There’s Ben Campbell – I remember him playing on our course as a 15-year-old’.”

Campbell, ranked 357th in the world rankings, is coming off a successful World Super 6 in Perth this month, where he reached the quarterfinals.

Campbell said he would look to stamp his mark on the tournament where he finished second two years ago.

“Winning it is a goal for me, this is my third season back and I’m feeling good physically,” he said.

“I have a good team in Queenstown and I’ll even get to sleep in my bed the night before.”

Bateman, ranked 914th in the world, made the top 38 in last year’s New Zealand Open and finished third in the 2018 Victorian PGA Championship.

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