The 2017 ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open champion Michael Hendry heads up a strong group of 12 New Zealanders mixed with proven winners and exciting young talent in the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways.
Hendry has been plying his trade on the Japan Golf Tour where he was a winner in 2015 and will join fellow Japan Tour winner and countryman David Smail, as well as Mark Brown, Daniel Pearce, Josh Geary, Gareth Paddison, Michael Long, Ben Campbell, Kieran Muir and Harry Bateman at the Fijian showpiece which is tri-sanctioned with the Asian Tour, ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and European Tour.
Talented amateurs and now first year professionals Ryan Chisnall and Nick Voke round out the Kiwi challenge at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course.
Hendry became the first New Zealander to win their national Open since Mahal Pearce in 2003 which he followed up with a second place finish in the Japan Tour’s Gate Way to The Open – The Mizuno Open, enough to see him make his major debut at the 146th Open Championship.
He replicated that same Japanese result in 2018 to make a second straight appearance in the prestigious tournament.
“It was another amazing experience, anytime you can book a spot in a Major against the world’s best golfers is always going to be pretty special,” said Hendry.
“I’m looking forward to carrying some of those good vibes over to Fiji and hopefully get a good result there. It’s quite close to home so it’s a great chance to pop over to New Zealand, refresh a little bit before getting stuck back into the season overseas.”
There’s a sense of unfinished business for Hendry returning to Fiji, he finished runner-up to American Brandt Snedeker in the 2016 edition of the tournament.
“I have played well there before, there were a few changes Vijay Singh made to the track and I had my first look at those last year.
“Hopefully I can put it all together this time and go one better than I did in 2016.”
Hendry has been one of the most consistent performers on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia recording top-5 finishes on the money list in the last two seasons, a strong performance at the AU$1.25 million Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways would put him in good stead for a third strong result on the Order of Merit.
“It’d be great to win that Order of Merit title, it opens so many doors through the exemptions you receive with it,” added Hendry.
“There’s a couple of guys who have already gotten off to great starts this season so it’ll be difficult to catch them but a good result in Fiji would be the first step.”
The even dozen New Zealanders add to the international flavour the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways has established over the past five years.
“We have so many talented New Zealander golfers who are part of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and it’s great to see them so well represented in the Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways,” said Gavin Kirkman, CEO of the PGA of Australia which owns the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.
“As a proud sporting nation, New Zealand enjoys a strong relationship with its Pacific neighbours and it’s fantastic to see that relationship continue with both Fiji and golf in general.”