New Zealand's biggest Maori golf tournament, the 76th New Zealand Maori Golf National Championship, is coming to Taupo next month.
The tournament, which is hosted annually by the New Zealand Maori Golf Association, attracts golfers from all around the country and is open to all players of Maori descent as well as spouses and partners of people of Maori descent.
It was first played in Taupo in 1979 and won by Bruce Ogilvy (Australia) and Mrs H Johnson. In 1988 it was won by local Taupo player Phil Tataurangi and Lovey Regnault. In 1991 it was won by Michael Campbell and Lovey Regnault.
Taupo Golf Club manager Steve Giles said Taupo Golf Club's size is a key drawcard. Last year, the Maori Golf Championships were held in Rotorua on two separate courses because there were so many players, but Taupo's two 18-hole courses mean the club can accommodate the full tournament in one location.
And while the New Zealand Maori Golf National Championship normally moves around the country, Mr Giles hopes that Taupo will be able to keep it at the Great Lake for the next decade. He said the club had pitched to retain the tournament from 2015 until 2024 (the tournament has already booked to play in Tauranga in 2014) and said it would be great news for the club if it could secure it for that long.
"It's a five-day tournament that would attract about 300 golfers and the hope is that if we could make it the home of New Zealand Maori Golf we could raise that to 500 [players]."
The tournament is a broad one which attracts all levels of golfers, from those on single-digit handicaps to the weekend warriors, non-affiliated players who don't belong to clubs or have a handicap.
Mr Giles said there would be some top players in the competition, especially the senior men's and senior ladies' divisions. Players to keep an eye out for include Jordan Rangihika, Sean Masters, Jordan Golding, Ruel Pederson and Jesse Hamilton.
The New Zealand Seniors Championship, a men's-only tournament open to players over the age of 50, begins the following month. It runs from February 8-10 and is expected to attract players from around New Zealand as well as some from Australia and the United States.