CHRISTCHURCH, NZ. – Feb 24, 2005 – Cricket captains Ricky Ponting and New Zealand's Steven Fleming scored some tips from one of Australia's greats Wayne Grady in Wednesday's pro-am at the ING NZ PGA Championship at the Clearwater Resort in Christchurch.
Backing up from yesterday's day night match at Jade Stadium in Christchurch, the two captains, along with the Black Caps wicketkeeper Brendan McCallum, teed off with Grady the 1990 US PGA Champion at 7:38am and managed to pick up some tips from Grady who will play in the event for the third time.
"It was great' said Ponting, who plays off 3 and who has played several times before with Grady. "We take our clubs on Tour all the time. You could probably describe us as golf tragics. Ponting, a keen golfer said he watched the Jacobs Creek Open last week and thought the talent of Steven Bowditch was a highlight. "He's not afraid to have a go. That's great to see."
The four came in with a 59 group score. When asked what Grady had taught them for the day Flemming joked 'humility".
Flemming has followed Grady's career and enjoyed playing with one of the senior members of the field. "It was great,"said the New Zealand captain. I actually met Wayne a few years ago right here. I was here watching the event and I met him on the 14th hole. He came over and introduced himself walking between the 14th and 15th and I thought that was just great."
McCallum offered that his handicap was 'a lot' but Grady labeled him as "Brendan the improver."
The pro-am was won by Brian Kortan from the USA and his group of Stu Hargreaves, Scott Harris and Chris Bond from More FM. The group of Grady, Flemming, Ponting and McCallum finished 5th. The ING NZ PGA Championship begins Thursday at Clearwater where the winner will take home $US150,000 of the $US600,000 purse.
The field comprises of 78 players from the US Nationwide Tour, 68 from the Australasian Tour ands 10 invitees.
The field at the event includes 2002 winner Peter O'Malley who shot a 271 to win. 2003 and 2004 winners Ryan Palmer and Gavin Coles are not playing this year, but 2005 Nationwide Tour event winners Australian Steven Bowditch and American Vance Veazey lead the field.
Veazey won the first Nationwide Tour event of the year when he claimed victory in the opening event, the BellSouth Panama Championship, at the end of January. He finished T10 at last weeks Jacobs Creek Open and is now second on the money list with earnings of nearly $US110,000, just $3000 short of what he pocketed on last year's tour.
Bowditch won last weeks Jacobs Creek Open, leaping to the top of the Nationwide Tour Money List. He admitted to feeling the pinch a bit after last weeks win.
"Last week was a massive highlight in my career and its just hard to clear the mind and get back to basics," said Bowditch in a media conference today. "My mindset isn't exactly on golf at the moment. I was on the practice range this morning and it just didn't feel right but hopefully I'll get back to it tomorrow."
Coming into this event in 2005 is a marked difference to when he played here in 2002.
"I didn't make the cut. I think I shot about one thousand", he said. Now he enters the event as the Queensland Open Champion on the Von Nida Tour, with a third and a fourth at the Hillross Australian Open and the MasterCard Masters on the Australasian Tour and as the winner of the Jacobs Creek Open on the Nationwide Tour.
Keep it simple - is the philosophy being adopted by Kiwi professional golfer Grant Waite this week as he looks to regain his full tour card for the United States PGA tour next year.
Waite, who turned professional in 1987 after graduating from the University of Oklahoma, has elected to concentrate on the Nationwide Tour this year in an attempt to finish in the top 20 which would automatically give him his full playing rights on the 2006 United States PGA tour.
"For most of the year I'm going to play the Nationwide Tour. This week I could have played the Tucson Open but wanted to play down here for a number of reasons. I haven't been back in New Zealand for a long time. I haven't seen my parents for the last five or six years and they haven't seen my kids."
"My goal at the end of the year is to get my (PGA) exempt status back and that can be done by playing the Nationwide tour and being in the top 20.
"I've come here to win and if I play well enough I'll have a chance to do that. I haven't been in contention for a long time, but I've been there before and have won on the regular tour (1993 Kemper open). Hopefully that experience will help me if I get into contention."
In addition to Grady and Waite who are both US PGA Tour winners, there 11 other US PGA TOUR winners in the field, including Mike Standly, Jim McGovern, Trevor Dodds, Brian Henninger, Willie Woods, Rick Fehr, Mike Springer, Joel Edwards, Greg Kraft, Grant Waite, David Gossett Junior and Michael Clarke II.
American Ryan Palmer holds the course record of (-10), 63.
Source: PGA Tour