Wellington professional Gareth Paddison has bittersweet memories of the NZ PGA Championship in 2013 at The Hills in Queenstown.
With nine holes to play the 33-year-old was the talking point of the tournament after he made five birdies in succession to close out the front nine.
But it all came unraveled in two holes when he made a bogey on the 12th and then a double bogey on the par 5 13th which ruled out his title hopes.
He eventually finished in a share of third place alongside Josh Geary and four shots back from the playoff between Michael Hendry and Australian Scott Strange which the Kiwi won to defend his title.
Now one year on Paddison is excited to see the New Zealand Open Championship return to Queenstown and is excited about his chances in the tournament that will be staged at The Hills and Millbrook from February 27 – March 2.
“I definitely feel like I have unfinished business at The Hills,” said Paddison.
“I was going really well and then I made a bogey on the 12th and that sort of killed my momentum and then on the 13th I blocked my second and hit it the one place on the golf course you definitely don’t want to hit it. It was pretty disappointing to play so nicely and then see it all come unstuck on a couple of bad swings. I hope I am in contention again and will be better from that experience.”
The mistakes on the back nine and also his poor finish to round three where he missed very makeable birdie putts on the final three holes are his standout memories from the week.
“I walked off the 18th after the third round with a bitter taste in my mouth because I knew I had missed some great chances. I was playing much better than my scoring reflected and I only missed out by four shots. People talk about the mistakes I made but I also played really nicely in that final round. There were a lot of positives to come from that week.”
Paddison sees the move of the National Open back to Central Otago as nothing but a positive.
“I can’t wait to get back down to Queenstown. It is definitely one of the best weeks of the year and it’s great to have the NZ Open back there,” he said.
“It is a great change for the New Zealand Open to have a partnership on the Japan Golf Tour. Players who don’t have any tour status know that one good week in Queenstown could change everything for them with some good opportunities up in Japan. Hopefully that partnership will develop further. The more quality players we can get to Queenstown to compete for the title the better because the event will grow in stature.”
Paddison, who finished sixth on the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit in 2013, is a former European Tour player and in 2014 is looking to qualify for the Japan Tour or the Web.com Tour in the States.
He has no problems contending in world-class fields like he did at the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast where he finished sixth behind the likes of American Rickie Fowler and champion Adam Scott.
From this week he will play three tournaments in Australia in a row - Victorian PGA, Victorian Open and Queensland PGA Championship - that he has won at various stages of his career and he hopes that he will arrive in Queenstown ready to contend.
Paddison has been somewhat of a forgotten man in the lead up to the New Zealand Open.
Most of the hype has been around his good mate Michael Hendry who is looking to win a third title at The Hills in as many years or the presence of well-known American pro Rocco Mediate or the big-hitting Aussie Scott Hend.
Paddison said he has flown beneath the radar throughout his career but that doesn’t worry him too much.
“It makes the week of a tournament a bit easier if you aren’t one of the people everyone is talking about,” he said.
“I am comfortable in myself and I know what I am capable of. I am happy letting the clubs do the talking. I might have worried about more when I was younger and sought after the spotlight more than I do now, it is good for your sponsors and all that sort of stuff, but when it comes to your performance it is good be able to play with just your own expectations.”
At his best Paddison expects to be right up there in contention. To win the New Zealand Open would be a dream come true.
“I am the same as any Kiwi golfer. I have grown up playing the game dreaming of the chance to win the NZ Open. That would be something really special. A lot of great golfers from here and many of them are good friends of mine – the likes of Greg Turner, Michael Campbell, Sir Bob Charles, Michael Long, Mahal Pearce and David Smail – have won it and I would love to put my name alongside theirs.”