12 March 2017
North Harbour professional Michael Hendry became the first Kiwi to claim the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open title since 2003 after a three-way playoff at Millbrook Resort near Queenstown today.
Birdies by fellow Kiwi Ben Campbell and 2011 champion Brad Kennedy from Australia on the par-5 17th hole enabled the pair to finish tied with Hendry at 19-under par for the tournament.
Hendry hit his tee shot on the par-3 18th to within 5m on the first playoff hole, and knew the dream was his after both Kennedy and Campbell pulled their shots into the water that surrounds the green.
While the previous three rounds were played in idyllic conditions at The Hills and Millbrook Resort, today was cool and windy with morning rain that made for a challenging day.
Hendry produced a remarkable effort, hitting 17 greens in regulation on the way to an outstanding two-under par round of 69. He edged into the lead on the 10th hole and was never headed, although required the playoff to become the 98th winner of the Brodie Breeze Trophy and the first New Zealander since Mahal Pearce at Middlemore in Auckland 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. Seventy-two 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 gameplan that I wanted today. Right then and there was when I won the golf tournament.”
Campbell, beaten in a playoff at the NZPGA 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 messaged 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, recovering from a double bogey on the first hole to shoot an even-par 71.
Australian Deyen Lawson enjoyed an excellent tournament in fourth on 18-under, a shot ahead of compatriot Jack Wilson.
Five players shared sixth place on 16-under 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.
There was also rich reward for Hawkes Bay professional Daniel Pearce who shot four-under 67 today to finish alone in 11th place on 15-under par, his best return at his national championship.
The par-5 10th proved a turning point with Hendry producing a coaching manual bunker shot to promote himself to the top of the leaderboard. In the next group, Kennedy was also able to score, but Campbell recorded his second bogey of the day to drop to third.
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.
Nelson’s Ryan Chisnall collected the Bledisloe Cup as the tournament’s leading amateur, finishing at three-under in a share of 58th place.