Greg Turner credits the New Zealand Open for changing his career.
The 49-year-old, who plans to join the Senior European Tour in 2013 when he turns 50, is playing his first New Zealand Open in 10 years. He last played in 2002 at Paraparaumu Beach when World No.1 Tiger Woods made a controversial appearance.
The four-time winner on the European Tour retired from professional golf in 2004 to spend more time with his family. He has since forged a successful course design business with Scott Macpherson called Turner – Macpherson design.
He was quick to temper any expectation or prospects of becoming a three-time champion at New Zealand’s premier golf tournament.
“It would be incredibly optimistic to suggest that I would be in contention to win. I would be happy if I made the cut,” said Turner from his home in Central Otago.
“But I guess golf is a funny game and you never know. I never thought I would play the New Zealand Open again so it should be an interesting week.”
In his time away from the game Turner has had plenty of time to reflect and he said winning the New Zealand Open at Paraparaumu in 1989 and Middlemore in 1997 were both significant moments in his life.
“The win in 1989 at Paraparaumu was huge really and a massive turning point for me,” he said.
“I was having a really tough couple of years and was struggling with a swing change that I had been working on since May that year. I was really battling and my confidence was really low. That win turned everything around and helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“It is impossible to overstate how important that win was for me – it changed my whole career really.
“I went from being short of confidence in a swing change to winning the NZ Open and then I went to the World Cup of Golf in Europe with Simon Owen and we played really well to finish sixth and then I went to European Tour School and two weeks later got my card back. It was a massive turning point and I will always remember that moment when I won my first New Zealand Open.
“In 1997 - I just remember playing really well all week and that week was the catalyst to me playing some of the best golf in my career. I won late in ’97 and went onto play in The Presidents Cup which was one of the standout moments of my career.
“So both of my New Zealand Open wins have been very significant- one was a huge turning point and the other kick started a period of my best run of results.”
Turner showed that he still has plenty of magic shots to offer at the Harewood Open on the course he redesigned. He shot rounds of 74, 74, 73 and 76 to finish tied 25th in his comeback.
“I felt like I played better than I was expecting but not as well as I would have liked if that makes sense. I felt good at the end of the week and I felt like my game was getting better and better.”
Turner, in his low-key way, said he is not entirely sure what has inspired him to play the New Zealand Open.
“It’s a big event, an important event and it’s going to be great to test myself in that environment. You can’t create those circumstances without playing big events and that is what I am looking for.”
He will also be looking for some confidence at the John Darby and Sir Bob Charles designed layout.
“Clearwater is not a course I have ever felt very comfortable at. It doesn’t suit my eye if you like. So that is a challenge in itself. I haven’t played there a lot but when I have played there I haven’t gone that well so I will be looking at ways to turn that around.”
He is also looking forward to reacquainting and competing with many good Aussie and Kiwi mates on the course.
“I have caught up with them when they are over for the New Zealand Open and the NZ PGA but to play with them is a bit different and it should be a lot of fun.”
Turner already holds a special place in New Zealand Golf history. Sir Bob Charles, who won the title four times (1954, ‘66, ‘70 and ‘73), is the only Kiwi to have won more titles in the post-war era.
His two wins are moments he’ll never forget.
“There is nothing like winning your national open. You dream of that moment when you’re growing up as a kid and to realize that dream not once but on a couple of occasions is really special and I have very fond memories. I won 12 times around the world but I wouldn’t trade any of them for the two wins I had at the New Zealand Open.”
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