Kiwi motorsport star and Hyundai ambassador Hayden Paddon will swap his rally car for golf clubs, as the first celebrity announced to play in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open in Queenstown.
Paddon will fly home after the Swedish round of the FIA World Rally Championship, where he competes for the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team, to compete in the 99th ISPS Handa New Zealand Open.
The premier golf event, co-sanctioned with the ISPS Handa PGA of Australasia and the Asian Tour in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour, will be played at Millbrook Resort and The Hills from 1 to 4 March.
A number of celebrities will form part of the amateur field, with Paddon to contest the tournament for the first time.
The 30-year-old, who is the first New Zealand driver to compete in the full World Rally Championship calendar, is a keen golfer who plays off a 12.9 handicap. He is looking forward to swapping the controls of his rally car for his golf clubs, and support Hyundai New Zealand who have come on board as a major sponsor for the first time.
Paddon’s 2018 international schedule with Hyundai Motorsport offers the Kiwi rally star the chance to spend more time in New Zealand during March and April. Alongside this new opportunity to play in the Open, he’ll be joining long-time co-driver John Kennard and his Hyundai New Zealand Rally Team to contest several rounds of the 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship in his Hyundai i20 AP4+ rally car.
Paddon says he always loves getting out on a golf course to relax and unwind in a different form of competition. “The New Zealand Open is set amongst the most beautiful courses and scenery in the world,” he says. “It’s an honour to be a part of it and to play these courses.”
Paddon started playing golf as a young boy.
“My grandad was a greenkeeper at a golf course in Geraldine when I was young, and he always took me out golfing with him. That’s where the love for the sport started and through my high school years, I would be playing two or three times a week.
“My schedule doesn’t allow me to play more than half a dozen times a year now. I always try and get in some games when in New Zealand, particularly at my new home club in Wanaka, but there’s no time for golf in Europe at present.”
Paddon will have his cousin, Matt Bowater, as his caddie. “Matt is a scratch player, so I’m sure he will give some good advice.”
Hyundai New Zealand General Manager Andy Sinclair said they are delighted Paddon is able to take part, and he will play a key role in Hyundai’s involvement in the tournament.
“We’re excited to be part of New Zealand’s premier golf event and having Hayden available to represent Hyundai New Zealand is fantastic. I’m sure his skill behind the wheel will translate to the fairway. We’re also looking forward to launching Hyundai Drive for Good during the tournament which will put a new spin on the hole in one format.”
The unique format of the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open will see 144 professionals compete for the $1.2 million prize purse. For the first two rounds they will be accompanied 144 amateurs, forming teams of two playing 18 holes at each of Millbrook Resort and The Hills. After the second round there is a cut for the leading 30 amateurs who will join the top 60 professionals (plus ties) for the final two rounds at Millbrook Resort. The remainder of the amateur field will contest a separate one-day event at nearby Jacks Point.
Organisers will announce other celebrities over the next two weeks.