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New Zealand Open loses money

New Zealand Golf will take a loss of around $450,000 on the New Zealand Open at Gulf Harbour, but chief executive Larry Graham is not worried.

"It won't be more than that and it could be less," he said yesterday. "This year has been a great investment for the future.

"We have agreed a deal for a five-year extension of the co-sanctioning with the European tour with a five-year right of renewal.

"This has been a learning year for us. We know how to run a golf tournament but these days you're running an event and there are a few things we can improve and we're happy to get feedback."

John Patterson, chairman of the board of New Zealand Golf, was upbeat: "We're not happy to be $450,000 down. Nobody would be.

"But we're looking to the future and we're very positive about that."

Graham said sponsorship arrangements had been constrained this year by deals done by their former partner, IMG. This had caused difficulties in taking advantage of the hugely increased exposure to the European and Asian markets.

He said total paid attendance was ahead of budget at 25,200, better than the last two Opens at The Grange and Middlemore. He conceded that the ferry and shuttle bus services needed to be improved. On such a spread-out course it might be possible to provide spectator shuttles between key points.

The very low scoring has drawn criticism from some players saying the fairways are too wide and forgiving, turning the event into a putting contest and not rewarding the other skills of the game.

Steve Webster, who shot a course record 10-under 62 yesterday morning, not surprisingly rated the course highly, though he conceded that some changes would improve it.

"I think it is a little bit too generous off the tee. You could make it a par 70 for a start by, say, whacking tees back and chucking the sixth tee up 10 to 20 yards and making it a long par-four.

"But the course is great. A few alterations and you could make it really tough."

The course got a ringing endorsement from one of the top New Zealanders, Stephen Scahill, who shot 65 yesterday.

"I would personally love to see the tournament come back here and stay for three or four years," he said. "As a player I think it's fun to be able to shoot 10 under."

Graham said Gulf Harbour remained the preferred venue for next year, though no decision had been made. The facilities available there were difficult to find anywhere else.


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