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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Golf: NZ Golf sticks by shaky Christchurch

Golf: NZ Golf sticks by shaky Christchurch

12:54 PM Wednesday Jun 22, 2011
Golf officials are standing by Christchurch as venue for the next New Zealand Open, despite ongoing earthquakes there.

New Zealand Golf (NZG) remained committed to staging the championship at Clearwater Resort, which escaped damage from the February 22 quake in which 181 people were killed, chief executive Dean Murphy said today.

Christchurch residents were still being unnerved by quakes, with a magnitude 5.4 shake last night.

Christchurch lost its rugby World Cup games after the February 22 quake, with AMI Stadium badly damaged and the loss of suitable accommodation for players and fans.

Much of the central business district remains cordoned off due to the structural damage caused to buildings, and aftershocks have most hurt the eastern suburbs, with the reappearance of liquefaction, loss of essential services and damage to their homes.

Clearwater, on the western outskirts of the city, has been spared damage, and Murphy remained confident the Open will go ahead as planned there on December 1-4.

"Clearwater and that half of the city are up and running and Clearwater has not been affected," Murphy said.
NZG had done due diligence on the number of available hotel and motel beds and he was comfortable Christchurch could provide the level of services required to accommodate an influx of people for the championship.

He estimated up to 2000-3000 beds were needed per night, taking in players, wives, caddies, support crews, tournament organisers and staff, plus visitors and news media specifically there to watch the championship.

NZG has looked at billeting some players with the assistance of Clearwater Resort to help ease demand, but Murphy said "we are comfortable that there is still a lot of capability for hotel accommodation in Christchurch".

Christchurch, which last hosted the New Zealand Open in 1984, was unveiled as the venue for the next three years the day before the February quake struck.

A minimum purse of $500,000 is guaranteed, international car dealership BMW has been brought on board as the naming rights sponsor and the championship is to be sanctioned by the Australasian PGA.

The previous three editions of the championship, held on jeweller Michael Hill's outstanding private course outside of Queenstown, carried larger purses and sanctioning from the Nationwide Tour, the second tier circuit in the United States.

Murphy said there was to be extra emphasis this year on promoting the championship as a New Zealand event, hopefully with all of New Zealand's best players in attendance.

"We want to make this as much of a New Zealand-centric tournament as we can and we are working with all of the best New Zealand players to ensure they can come back and play the tournament.

"We are also talking to a number of overseas players, a lot of Australians and a few Americans."

Player recruitment starts in the next couple of weeks and Murphy said it would probably be late August at earliest before organisers were in a position to reveal confirmed entries.

The New Zealand Open is the third event on a pre-Christchurch three-tournament swing in Australasia, following the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship.

"We are comfortable with where the city sits at present. We want to help and be part of them getting back on their feet."

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