Mahan Will Defend in Second Kiwi Challenge


Four of the best young golfers on the PGA Tour will travel half-way around the world in mid-November, chasing a winner's check for $1 million in the second annual Kiwi Challenge, a made-for-TV event sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

Defending champion Hunter Mahan and last year's runner-up Anthony Kim will be joined by 20-somethings Sean O'Hair and Camilo Villegas for a 36-hole stroke play event November 11-12 at Cape Kidnappers Golf Resort in Hawkes Bay, on New Zealand's North Island. The event will be televised by NBC from 4-6 p.m. (EST) on November 14-15.

Combined, the group has eight PGA Tour wins, more than 80 top-10 finishes and nearly $40 million in career winnings. The Kiwi Challenge will offer a $2 million purse and a setting that architect Tom Doak used to create a 7,119-yard masterpiece ranked 36th in the world by Golf Magazine. "You'll never play golf like this anywhere else," said Doak of the course.

"It's one of the most stunning golf courses I have ever seen," added NBC announcer Mark Rolfing, a resident of Hawaii.

Mahan, 27, won the event last year with a par on the second playoff hole after shooting 30 on the final nine holes of regulation to catch Kim. Each player concluded 36 holes at 8-under-par 136. It may have been the confidence-booster Mahan needed. Since then, he has climbed to No. 26 in the world rankings and is 14th on the 2009 PGA Tour money list.

"I can't wait to go back to New Zealand and play in the Kiwi Challenge," said Mahan. "Before going over last year, I had heard wonderful things about Cape Kidnappers and they were all true. I played some of my best golf ever on the final holes to win last year's event, so I'd sure call it one of my favorite places for a few reasons. The course is fantastic and the views are incredible; like nothing I've ever seen before."

"It's pretty amazing," agreed Kim, the youngest of the group at 24. "I was honored to participate in the inaugural Kiwi Challenge and I am looking forward to returning to New Zealand in November where I'll be hoping to come out on top this year.

"The setting and views from the golf course were just spectacular and the people made us feel right at home. It will be an exciting trip for me, and if it's anything like last year, it will be another exciting event."

Kim was a two-time winner in 2008 and is currently ranked No. 18 in the world.

The top-ranked player in the field is Villegas, 27, who won twice in 2008 and is No. 16 in the world. O'Hair, 27, is right there as well, with a No. 20 ranking; and he brings even more punch when you consider he is eighth in PGA Tour earnings for 2009.

"Last year's Kiwi Challenge was a tremendous success and we are thrilled to be hosting it again," said founder and owner Julian Robertson. "This year we probably have the best group of players under age 30 to ever to play in a tournament of this type. We are excited to welcome them and the NBC broadcast team to Cape Kidnappers in November."

A limited number of spectator tickets will be available for purchase at Ticket Direct at www.ticketdirect.co.nz soon. Tickets will go on sale in September. All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit charities in the local community of Hawkes Bay.

For more news about Australasia's golf industry, visit www.golfindustrycentral.com.au.


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