Campbell, who won the US Open in 2005, turns 50 the week before the event, qualifying for the PGA and European Senior Tours, and his participation in the 100th New Zealand Open is his first step back into the game he loves.
He shot to fame when he beat Tiger Woods to win in 2005, becoming one of only three Kiwi professionals to win a major. The others are Sir Bob Charles and Lydia Ko.
In 2007, the Open moved to Queenstown, which has become its home. The 2014 move to a pro-am format meant two courses were required: The Hills, owned by jewellery magnate Sir Michael Hill, and the neighbouring Millbrook Resort.
New Zealanders won the NZ Open three times in the 1970s (Charles in 1970 and 1973 and Simon Owen in 1976) but for the next decade and more, Americans and Australians dominated the winners’ list.
New Zealander Greg Turner broke a 13-year drought by winning the Open at Paraparaumu Beach in 1989. The links course on the Kāpiti Coast proved a happy hunting ground for New Zealanders in the 90s: Grant Waite won there in 1992 and Michael Long in 1996, before Turner secured his second victory, at Middlemore in 1997, by seven shots.
Wellingtonian Matthew Lane at Formosa extended the winning New Zealand run in 1998 when he shot 64 in the final round to sweep past the field. The Kiwi run continued with Michael Campbell’s late charge to beat Craig Perks at Paraparaumu Beach in 2000.
Another New Zealander, David Smail, picked up his first Tour victory at The Grange in 2001, and in 2003, Dunedin-based Mahal Pearce had a breakthrough victory. The former leading amateur had struggled to make a name for himself until his very consistent performance at Middlemore, and even with a double-bogey on the final hole he won by two shots.
And in 2017, Auckland’s Michael Hendry broke a 13-year Kiwi gap with his victory on the first extra hole at Millbrook Resort.
This article was first published in the January 19, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.