Six Australians who have lifted the New Zealand Open trophy gathered in Queenstown on Monday night to mark the return of one of the most popular events on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia schedule.
Peter Fowler (1993), Dimitrios Papadatos (2014), Jordan Zunic (2015), Matt Griffin (2016), Zach Murray (2019) and Brad Kennedy (2011 & 2020) posed with the trophy their names are etched on at Millbrook Resort as they relived past glories and shared their delight to be across the Tasman for the first time since 2020.
Japan Tour regular Griffin has triumphed on seven occasions throughout his career spanning the Japanese, Australasian, OneAsia and Korean tours, but he regards his thrilling victory with a final-hole birdie to overcome Japan’s Hideto Tanihara by a shot as his most significant.
“The New Zealand Open is always one of my favourite weeks of the year, and being unable to play the past two years has been really frustrating,” Griffin said.
“Playing events that you have won in the past always fills you with great memories. In 2016, I had my now wife, parents and friends at the tournament, which made winning extra special.
“My manager had a tour group in Queenstown and brought a bottle of Grange with him in case one of his players won. We drank that from the trophy and had a big party with around 30 people.”
Griffin is a member of an illustrious club of Australians to have won the New Zealand Open.
Five-time Open champion Peter Thomson’s name appears on the trophy more than anyone else’s with the Australian golf icon taking out the title on nine occasions.
Such was the impact Thomson made during his battles with the likes of fellow Open champions Kel Nagle and Sir Bob Charles that in 2019 he became the first Australian to be inducted into the New Zealand Golf Hall of Fame.
Thomson also helped grow the event by bringing Gary Player, Harold Henning and David Thomas to compete in 1958.
Nagle is the equal second most decorated golfer alongside New Zealand’s Andrew Shaw with seven titles, while 1991 Open champion Ian Baker-Finch is the other Australian Major winner on the honour roll.
Among the crop of Australian past champions teeing it up this week, Papadatos has a unique connection with Thomson and Nagle.
The New South Welshman joined those two legends of Australian golf as a multiple champion of the Vic Open with his victory at 13th Beach last year, and he wants to replicate that feat with a second New Zealand Open crown.
“Obviously some great players have won this event, it’s a massive honour,” Papadatos said.
“Coming back to Queenstown is always a highlight on the calendar. Definitely one of the best tournaments in the world at one of, if not, the best place in the world.
“The New Zealand Open was my first professional win and I’d love to win another one.”