The New Zealand duo of Brent Holmes and Troy Bygrave are set for the trip of a lifetime to Royal St George’s ahead of The 149th Open in July after qualifying for The R&A 9 Hole Challenge Final from New Zealand Golf’s ‘Make Time, Play 9’ series final at Millbrook Resort.
With 2020 being the first year that New Zealand’s nine-hole initiative has formed part of The R&A 9 Hole Challenge, over 211,400 qualifying rounds were played marking a 22% increase on the previous year’s nine-hole figures in New Zealand.
The final was played on the Saturday afternoon of the 101st New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sports with Holmes and Bygrave emerging as the qualifiers set to represent their country as a team on the eve of The Open alongside qualifiers from Australia and Great Britain and Ireland.
Stoked to be heading to The 149th Open
Holmes, from Mt Maunganui Golf Club, won the Make Time, Play 9 final with 17 stableford points and will now head to The 149th Open, a championship he has previously only ever watched on television.
“It’s really exciting. I’ve been telling all my mates and they’re all really pumped for me. I would say a mixture of being shocked and stoked are my two main emotions right now,” said Holmes after his winning round.
“I watch The Open every year. Sometimes I take the morning off work so I can get up early to watch the final round. I’ve been a golf nut since I was a kid and I love getting out on the course as much as I can.
“I’m honestly really stoked. I can’t believe I am going.”
Experience continues at Royal St George’s
With 16 stableford points, Bygrave from Muriwai Golf Club claimed the remaining qualifying position.
Having been impressed by competing on the New Zealand Open championship course, Bygrave is already excited to experience golf’s original championship when he travels to Royal St George’s in July.
“I’m blown away. It’s all still sinking in. I really enjoyed being a part of the tournament and everything that is happening around it. It was just an unbelievable experience and I can’t believe more will be happening in July,” said Bygrave who only began playing golf ten years ago.
“I started playing golf socially around a decade ago, and about five-years-ago I decided to make it a little more than just a hobby.
“I went and bought myself some golf clubs and a year and a half ago I joined Muriwai Golf Club and I play as much as I can.”
Success of 9 Hole Challenge
This is the first year that New Zealand Golf have joined the competition and the second year that the participants from Golf Australia’s nine-hole event have had the opportunity to qualify.
Forty-two competitors will play in the Final at Royal St George’s before the world’s greatest golfers compete for the Claret Jug, where most recently Darren Clarke engraved his name in 2011.
The R&A 9 Hole Challenge, which has been running annually since an initial pilot in 2016, is central to the organisation’s wider drive to promote this form of golf as an ideal way to enjoy playing the sport in less time, either recreationally or competitively for handicap purposes.
For last year’s 9 Hole Challenge, almost 40,000 golfers entered nine-hole qualifying events held at courses throughout Great Britain and Ireland in 2019, as well as in Australia for the first time.
Please visit www.randa.org/9HoleChampionship for more information.