The 2012 BMW NZ Open hosted by Christchurch was once again a special week at the Clearwater Golf Club. As always the closing stretch of the Sir Bob Charles and John Darby designed layout served up plenty of drama on Sunday afternoon. We look back now on the highs and lows of the 94thNew Zealand Open that proved once again why it is the premier golf tournament in the country.



Higginbottom making history: 
The 19-year-old from NSW, who finished as the leading amateur in the event in 2011, was in a class of his own on Sunday afternoon. When he bogeyed the par 5 10thto slip back to one under for the day his title hopes looked gone. But Higginbottom wasn’t fazed. He made five birdies in seven holes to take the tournament by the scruff of the neck and become the first amateur winner since Harry Berwick back in 1956. That is 56 years of history that changed courtesy of an incredible final round five under par 67. The Aussie also became the first teenager to win the title since Sir Bob Charles famously claimed the NZ Open as an 18-year-old amateur at Heretaunga in 1954. The way Higginbottom secured his win was perhaps most remarkable. The teenager, who hit his approach shot into the water in round two when he was leading, showed nerves of steel on the final time coming down 18 with a massive drive. “I actually talked about the 18thwith my mates before the final round. They asked me what I would do if I had a one shot lead down the last and I told them I would just rip one down there. I was most nervous when I had that short putt on the last but it was nice to see that drop and to win is really good.” The Aussie rep looks like he has the game to be a very successful pro.


The run of Brown:You had to feel for Mark Brown on Sunday. He took a three shot lead heading into the final round as he looked to become the first Kiwi to win the title in nine years. The Wellington pro, who finished as the leading amateur at the NZ Open in 1994 and 1995, looked set to add another prized piece of silverware to his collection. But all of the putts that found the cup on Saturday afternoon, when Brown shot a remarkable six under par 66 on moving day, just grazed the edge of lipped out. It could have been so different. The first 10 holes Brown set up a plethora of chances. He missed two birdie putts on the opening two holes by the smallest of margins and that would have made all the difference. His first birdie came at the seventh and then he fell away chasing the lead after bogeys on 11 and 13. But it was a fine week for the 37-year-old from the Shandon Golf Club. It was his first NZ Open in five years and he came within three shots of winning it. Let’s hope Browny is back next year at the BMW NZ Open as the more he plays down here the more likely he’ll be in that position again. After the career he has had, Brown deserves to join a list of NZ greats as a New Zealand Open champion.


R.Lee showing his quality:A notable mention here has to go to Richard Lee. The Japan Tour pro flew beneath the radar all week at the Clearwater Golf Club and popped up in the final round to be a real contender. He finished fifth in the end, one behind Brown for his best finish at a New Zealand Open.  Lee, who is the only man to shoot a 59 in competitive golf in NZ, had rounds of 76, 70, 70 and 69 for a fine performance. What will be most pleasing for R.Lee is the fact that when he was in contention on the weekend he played his best golf. He should be encouraged by his week heading into 2013 especially considering he had the rough side of the draw and his 76 came in brutal winds.    


The weather and conditions of that course at Clearwater: It was one out of the box at the Clearwater Golf Club. The weekend golf was played in idyllic conditions and over the many years of hosting NZ PGA events and NZ Opens it is hard to remember a time when it was this pleasant and warm. It saw a good number of locals come out on the weekend and enjoy the activity in the Village Square. Special mention has to be made to Course Superintendent Ryan Adams and his team for the immaculate condition of the Clearwater Golf Club throughout the week. In the words of Phil Tataurangi: “Clearwater has really come on as a course in the past few years and matured to become a great and testing layout.”


Upstaging the guys…again:Lydia Ko made a cameo appearance at the BMW NZ Open pro-am and her press conference was as packed as any staged during the week. She has had that sort of year where she is always in demand. Lydia spoke well, as she always does, before going out and hitting a casual six under par 66 in the blustery conditions. Lydia played alongside NZ Golf President Patsy Hankins and NZG Board member Eileen Bateup who were in awe of her round that included seven birdies and a bogey. It bodes well for the New Zealand Women’s Open from February 8 – 10 at the same venue as she spearheads the Kiwi challenge looking to become the first home champion of the national open.


The return of Turns:At the other end of the age bracket it was great to see Greg Turner playing his first New Zealand Open for 10 years. The two-time champion reminded everyone of his quality on Friday afternoon to jump into contention and suggest a third win at the event was not beyond him. He faded on the weekend with rounds of 79 and 75.  But Turns, who is 50 in February, has plenty of game still and will be competitive on the Seniors European Tour. There is no doubt about that. But he brought far more to the event that just the scores he handed in. His presence in the field was great and every time he came in for a press conference he was engaging and entertaining. He is one of New Zealand’s sportsmen who when he speaks, it pays to listen. Let’s hope he is back for another NZ Open. Let’s also hope that 10 years after Mahal Pearce’s famous win at Middlemore we are toasting another home champion in 2013. The Kiwis are due. 






    1 Lee, Jang Hyun 124.00
    2 Jones, Samuel 80.25
    3 Zheng, Jimmy 76.75
    4 Kobori, Kazuma 70.00
    5 Smail, Charlie 69.83
    1 Chung, Darae 100.13
    2 Son, Yeonsoo 86.85
    3 Kang, Sumin 69.60
    4 Kobori, Momoka 66.67
    5 Im, Amy 60.64