Celebrities ‘talk up their game’ ahead of this week’s ISPS Handa New Zealand Open

Media release from ISPS Handa New Zealand Open

Some admitted to being “terrified”. Others were confidence-plus.

But what sporting celebrities Shane Warne, Brendon McCullum, Sir Ian Botham, Ricky Ponting, Stephen Fleming and Allan Border all agreed on was that four days of play at the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open is an experience not to be missed.

The cricketing greats lined up at Queenstown’s Millbrook Resort for their first practice rounds today ahead of the Pro-Am tournament (Thursday March 9 to Sunday March 12).

The good-natured banter and laughs flew as each took turns at potting their opponents while talking up their own game.

On a chilly Queenstown morning with a dusting of fresh snow on the mountains, Botham said he’d walked out in his shorts that morning then walked straight back in to change into something warmer.

With a tongue-in-cheek admission that he didn’t play too much golf in the UK because of the weather, he said he’d headed to Spain for some practice.

“That didn’t help at all, but I’m always pretty confident!”

Describing his golf prowess as “pretty ordinary”, Warne said he was in “fine form” off the field.

“I’m hoping that if I continue in that vein, by the time Thursday comes around I could be in tremendous form on the golf course as well,” he said.

McCullum and Border were unanimous in how terrified they were when it came to standing on the first tee on day one.

“I can’t get over how nervewracking that is, more than any other time in sport,” said Border. “I’ve definitely had some moments here I would rather forget. I’m not used to having people standing so close when I’m playing golf, there’s every chance I’m going to whack one!”

And McCullum agreed. “We’re all obviously incredible golf enthusiasts who can’t wait to get out there, but all extremely anxious about standing on the first tee!”

Fleming said he was “very pleased” with the course change at Millbrook where the final hole is a par-3 coming onto a green in front of the historic Millhouse building.

With tongue firmly in cheek he declared that Millbrook was an anti-clockwise course so he planned to play it left-handed. Talking tactics, he said “It’s a bit like the America’s Cup where at some stage you’ve got to show your hand.”

Coming back to the tournament for his fourth year in a row, Ricky Ponting said he was making it a family affair, with his dad as caddy and his brother also playing in the event.

“I always get out the calendar at the beginning of the year and book out this week in early March,” he said.

“We’re all here to have fun and stay out of the way of our pro’s. We’ve got to be pretty mindful of what our pros are going through. We’ve all played in front of thousands of people, but this is a little bit out of our comfort zone.”

The celebrity players were all unanimous in praising NZ Open chairman John Hart and director Michael Glading for inviting them to the event.

“We all love being part of this,” said Warne. “We’re all competitive people and we all want to play a lot better than we do. We’re very grateful to be invited. John Hart and the team do a great job.”

A total of 14 celebrity amateurs will play as part of the tournament’s popular and successful Pro-Am format, including Grant Fox, Sir Russell Coutts, Japanese baseball star Masumi Kuwata, Olympian Tom Walsh, hockey player Ryan Archibald, Jeff Wilson, chef Josh Emett and Australian TV personality Kerri-Anne Kennerley.

The ISPS Handa New Zealand Open is a NZ$1 million Tier One event on the PGA Tour of Australasia, in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour.

Click here to visit ISPS Handa New Zealand Open’s website.

Photo caption (Photosport):

1/ Fun times ahead – lining up at Millbrook Resort ahead of this week’s ISPS Handa New Zealand Open are (L to R) Brendon McCullum, Shane Warne, Stephen Fleming, Ricky Ponting, Sir Ian Botham and Allan Border

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Tokyo sports star pitches in for ISPS Handa New Zealand Open

Media Release from ISPS Handa New Zealand Open

Back home in Tokyo, Masumi Kuwata is a sporting legend – revered for his 23-year-record as a professional baseball player in Japan and the United States.

Young Kuwata started playing baseball at just two years old, dreaming of turning professional. He started with a schools’ tournament most young Japanese would only aspire to play in once – and played a record five times.

He was snapped up by Japan’s top baseball team the Tokyo Giants, and in his early 20’s fulfilled another dream by playing two seasons of major league baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In the two to three months he had off, he’d play golf. And as is the case with many professional sportspeople, he turned out to be pretty good at it.

Enjoying his first-ever visit to Queenstown where he’s scheduled to play in the celebrity field for the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open (March 9 – 12), 49-year-old Kuwata said he played off “only a six”.

And despite the fact that puts him among some of the best celebrity guests to tee off this coming Thursday, the humble sports star said he was “a bit worried” about the Millbrook course.

“The course looks a bit difficult, a bit more narrow than courses I’m used to playing,” he said. “I don’t want to end up in the rough!”

Calling Millbrook Resort “really beautiful”, he said he was looking forward to partnering with top Japanese professional and personal friend Toshi Muto, playing in the tournament for the fourth time.

“I’m very happy to be playing with professional players because a chance to play four days with a pro is really something special. I’m looking forward to learning from him,” he said.

“I’m delighted to have been invited to play and I’m really looking forward to making a contribution to Japanese and New Zealand relationships by taking part in the tournament.”

As a baseball pitcher, Kuwata was admittedly one of the smallest professionals, but said it was all about speed.

“I wasn’t the power pitcher, it was about control. I’ve always loved golf and my brother played tournaments as a pro and now teaches. Now I’m retired I’m seeing what I can do with it.”

On retirement he went to university and achieved a Masters degree in sports science, and is currently studying for his PHD. He keeps up his love of baseball as a baseball commentator in print and on TV, and in his ‘spare’ time does charity work.

“Recognising that baseball has given a lot to me, I do a lot of work throughout Japan with injured or disabled youth baseball players,” he said.

Among the professionals at this year’s ISPS Handa New Zealand Open, more than 20 Japanese and Korean players from the Japan Tour have confirmed. The Japanese contingent confirmed for Queenstown includes leading players Yusaku Miyazato, Shunsuke Sonoda, Toshinori Muto and Ryutaro Nagano.

While these players may not be household golfing names in this New Zealand, the sextet have secured 16 wins between them on the Japan Golf Tour, and combined career earnings of around NZ$22million.

The ISPS Handa New Zealand Open is a NZ$1 million Tier One event on the PGA Tour of Australasia, in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour. The 2017 event will be played in Queenstown at Millbrook Resort and The Hills on 9-12 March.

Click here to visit ISPS Handa New Zealand Open’s website.

Photo caption (Photosport):

1/ Masumi Kuwata is delighted to play in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open – pictured here at Millbrook Resort

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Shotover Canyon Fox “gives a fox” for charity

Media Release from Shotover Canyon Swing and Canyon Fox

The world’s highest cliff jump operator, Shotover Canyon Swing and Canyon Fox, has raised over $12,700 during Shotover Canyon Fox’s first birthday celebrations to help a community in need.

The tourism superstars jumped right in to help raise money for families in Kaikoura following the earthquake – helping fund the rebuild of Waiau School and Community Pool.

The pool, which was used by both the community and the school, was destroyed in last year’s earthquakes. The news prompted community members to start a Givealittle page to help get the facility back up and running.

Celebrating it’s ‘Oneth’ birthday from February 18 to 24, over 250 locals and visitors visited Queenstown’s Shotover Canyon Fox to get their adrenalin fix for just $50.

All proceeds from the fundraiser went straight to the rebuild.

Shotover Canyon Fox Sales Manager James Isted-Salmon – known to all and sundry as just ‘Salmon’ — surprised Waiau School and Community Rebuild Committee members Emma Duncan and Caroline Eastmond with a cheque this weekend.

Waiau School and Community Rebuild Committee Chairperson Emma Duncan says she was astounded by the generous contribution.

“To be handed a cheque for over twelve thousand dollars is amazing and we’re very appreciative to Shotover Canyon Fox,” she says.

“It would take us months to fundraise this sort of money as we’re such a small community, and it has put us one step closer to achieving our end goal.”

Rebuild Committee Secretary Caroline Eastmond also expressed her gratitude.

“The donation will give the whole community a huge boost,” says Caroline. “It’s mind-blowing to know we’ve got so many good people around the country behind us, supporting our community in our efforts to rebuild the facility.”

Salmon said the committee was “absolutely over the moon” with the substantial donation, especially as it had been a surprise before the cheque amount was revealed.

The Shotover Canyon Fox drops adrenalin junkies from the world’s first ‘rail launch’ system 182m above the mighty Shotover River.

The Fox takes adventure-lovers out on the rail system before dropping about 5m into thin air and ‘foxing along’ to the other side.

Once there, they’re attached to a more traditional zipline (Line 2) taking them back to base.

Shotover Canyon Swing General Manager Matt Hollyer says he “couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate” Canyon Fox’s first birthday.

“A year on, the team couldn’t be prouder of our unique invention,” he says.

“A big thank you to everyone who has visited the Canyon, and taken a leap of good faith for a good cause.

“Each year we’re blown away by the generosity of others, and we’re delighted to help the project to make the pool a central point for the Waiau community once again.

“We chose Waiau School for the birthday fundraiser as we wanted to support a service that benefited an entire community, post Kaikoura earthquakes.

“We’re looking forward to pop in for a swim when it’s up and running.”

Shotover Canyon Swing and Canyon Fox runs annual fundraising initiatives to support local charities, picked each year by the company’s staff.

The Waiau School and Community Pool’s Givealittle page has raised over $92,600 since it was created in November 2016. To donate or for further information go to https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/waiauschoolpool

Click here to visit Shotover Canyon Swing’s website.

Photo caption:

1/ Staff and thrillseekers celebrate Shotover Canyon Fox first birthday

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Sports and entertainment superstars add to fun atmosphere at ISPS Handa New Zealand Open

Media release from ISPS Handa New Zealand Open

In their ‘normal’ day jobs they’re top of their game in a range of sports including shot put, sailing, baseball, hockey and cricket.

But next week the focus will be firmly on a small white ball – as the likes of Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup sailor Sir Russell Coutts, Olympic shot put medallist Tom Walsh, New Zealand’s most-capped hockey player Ryan Archibald and Pittsburgh Major League baseball player Masumi Kuwata play in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open in Queenstown (March 9 – 12). 

Also stepping outside their sporting comfort zone will be NZ cricket legends Brendon McCullum and Stephen Fleming, Aussie cricketers Shane Warne, Allan Border and Ricky Ponting, crowd-pleaser Sir Ian Botham, dual rugby and cricket international Jeff Wilson and former All Black Grant Fox.

Renowned celebrity chef Josh Emett leaves the kitchen to turn up the heat on the golf course, while TV personality and singer Kerri-Anne Kennerley – one of Australia’s most seasoned entertainment hosts – is out to show just how much she loves a good game of golf.

The 14 celebrity amateurs will play as part of the tournament’s popular and successful Pro-Am format.

Considering golf isn’t their ‘first’ sport, the celebrities boast some pretty handy handicaps, including cricket great Ricky Ponting who could go toe-to-toe with the pro’s with an impressive scratch handicap.

The 125kg super-strong Walsh, who took up playing golf with his shot put coach in their ‘down time’, plays off a very handy 11 handicap, while the likes of McCullum, Border, Fleming, Warne, Botham, Archibald and Wilson are all ten-or-below handicappers.

Golf obviously runs in the blood for former AB Grant Fox, father of top Kiwi hopeful Ryan Fox, as he plays off a very solid four handicap, while Sir Russell Coutts, who loves the game so much he’s built a private nine-hole golf course at his home above Arrowtown, is on a tidy 14.

Japanese baseball star Kuwata is no stranger to a slightly larger white ball, and plays off an impressive six handicap, while Kennerley and Emett play off 16 and 15 respectively.

Tournament director Michael Glading says the amateur and celebrity format of the tournament is unique in that it boasts world class golfers playing for $1m in prizemoney, and also 140 amateur players who get to play alongside the professionals.

“Adding sporting and other celebrities really adds an extra dimension to our unique event, and spectators love spotting those famous faces in amongst the pros. The entertainment factor is huge, enjoyed by die-hard golf fans and those along for a great day out.

“I suspect there will be more than a few people keen to see how far Tom can hit the ball off the tee, for example!”

The ISPS Handa New Zealand Open is a NZ$1 million Tier One event on the PGA Tour of Australasia, in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour. The 2017 event will be played in Queenstown at Millbrook Resort and The Hills on 9-12 March.

Click here to visit ISPS Handa New Zealand Open’s website.

Photo caption:

1/ A true favourite with the crowds – Sir Ian Botham will play in next week’s ISPS Handa New Zealand Open

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