AUSTRALIAN Brendan Jones will tee up as the top-ranked player for the inaugural New Zealand PGA Pro-Am Championship starting in Queenstown on March 29 but the change to a new celebrity pro-am format has attracted professionals from throughout Australia and New Zealand, and a trio from further afield.
Jones ended last year ranked 80 in the world but he will face stiff opposition from the likes of 10-time US PGA tour winner David Frost from South Africa, tour veterans Craig Parry, Peter O'Malley and Peter Fowler and Kiwis David Smail, Mark Brown and Phil Tataurangi.
Ryan Fox already has a professional title to his name, despite joining the play-for-pay ranks only in January, and Australian Jin Jeong appears set for great heights having won the British Amateur in 2010 before notching up a top-20 finish at The Open on the famous Old Course at St Andrews in the same year.
A number of other players come into the tournament in good form including Gareth Paddison, Adam Crawford and Scott Arnold. All have won a PGA Tour of Australasia event in the past six months.
Organisers have also added an international flavour to the tournament by inviting Japanese professional Jay Choi and China's Zhang Xin Jun.
Jay Choi is the only player ever to have made it from stage one of qualifying school to the top 25 on the money list in the same year on the Japan Golf Tour, while Zhang finished 13th in the HSBC Champions, a World Golf Championship event last year.
The field is being touted as one of the strongest for a tournament with comparable prize money on the PGA Tour of Australasia in recent years.
The demand for places in the 132-strong field also means approximately 80 golfers will have to pre-qualify for 10 available places at either Millbrook or Titirangi on March 26th.
The New Zealand PGA Pro-Am Championship runs from March 29 to April 1.