Top cricketers for BMW NZ Open challenge

Some big international cricket names are preparing to swap their willow for wood of a different kind during the 2015 BMW New Zealand Open.

If all the golf courses in New Zealand were laid end to end, you could probably drive your golf cart the length of the country without leaving the fairway.

While that theory has yet to be put to the test, New Zealand does boast hundreds of golf courses, from the charmingly rustic to the world-class. And it’s at two of the very best – The Hills and the Millbrook Resort in Queenstown – that this year’s BMW NZ Open is again being held  from 12 – 15 March, 2015.

The 2014 event was the first time that a national Open had been held over two courses and had been “very well received,” according to tournament director Michael Glading. The pro-am competition had proved particularly popular – “outstanding feedback was the response” – so naturally it features in the 2015 event.

Cricket heroes accept celebrity challenge

And in what will surely prove a crowd pleaser, some of the biggest names in the world of cricketing history will be swapping the willow for a different kind of wood for the inaugural ANZ Celebrity Challenge.

West Indians Sir Viv Richards and Brian Lara, Englishmen Sir Ian Botham and Graeme Swann, Australians Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne and New Zealand’s Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle and Mark Richardson will all be contesting the event, each pairing as amateurs with one of the professionals contesting the Open itself. 

Sir Ian Botham returns after first playing as a celebrity at The Hills in 2013, jumping at the chance to take up the challenge again this year, especially with the added incentive of playing alongside Sir Viv Richards. The two enjoyed a great rivalry on the cricket field during the 1980s and were equally good friends off the field.

Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming is back for the second year running, and looking forward to having another crack at rival captain Ricky Ponting although the Australian, having scored six birdies in the opening round in 2013, may prove tough to beat.

The timing of the event couldn’t be better with the ICC Cricket World Cup being held at the same time at venues throughout New Zealand and Australia, which means sports fans are a bit spoilt for choice. And the spectacular setting for the BMW New Zealand Open is the icing on the cake.

World famous Queenstown

Queenstown is justifiably world-famous for the quality of its scenery and its other attractions – ranging from bungy-jumping and white-water rafting to fine dining and finer wines. Some of arguably the world’s best pinot noir is produced in the region.

Finding somewhere equally fine to enjoy it isn’t difficult. Millbrook Resort, set among 500 acres of breathtaking beauty with 360 mountain views, provides luxury accomomdation, four exceptional restaurants and the 27-hole championship golf course co-hosting the BMW NZ Open. And Millbrook has just been named overall winner for a third consecutive year in the Top Hotel category of the 2015 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice™ awards, ranking first out of ten.

Sharing the hosting duties for the Open, The Hills is the brainchild of New Zealand entrepreneur and jewellery magnate Sir Michael Hill.  A golfing enthusiast from way back, Sir Michael bought a property in Arrowtown, just across the road from Millbrook, and decided to install a putting green. Things grew from there and The Hills is now a world-class championship golf course.

2015 BMW New Zealand Open

The 2015 BMW NZ Open has attracted a strong field, including a 21-strong contingent for the Japan Tour. Tournament Director Michael Glading says that’s an indication of the growing strength of the partnership between the BMW New Zealand Open and the Japan Tour. 

“There are many world-class players coming from the Japan Tour, and we’re  expecting many of them to be ‘in the hunt’ when the tournament heads into the final day on Sunday,” he said.

As well as Japanese players, the field is complemented by well-known Australian and New Zealand players who also play on the JGTO, including Australian Brendan Jones, the highest earning non-Japanese player on that Tour, and Brad Kennedy, who returns to New Zealand for the first time since winning the 2011 BMW New Zealand Open. They are backed up with leading Kiwis Michael Hendry and David Smail, both of whom have full status on the Japan Tour.

The fun begins on Thursday 12 March with a welcome party in the streets of Arrowtown with food, family activity and top-class entertainment for locals and visitors. The party atmosphere continues right through while the players get down to business.

The 136-strong field with compete in the first two rounds alternately at The Hills and Millbrook Resort, before the second round cut of 60. The final two rounds of the championship will be played at The Hills, finishing on Sunday 15 March, 2015.