A record total of 381 golfers will begin the quest to lift the Kel Nagle Cup in just under two weeks after entries for the Golf Challenge NSW Open closed on the weekend.
Despite COVID impacting many international players' abilities to participate, entrants from New Zealand, the United States, Korea, Switzerland, and Italy will compete for the revered 90-year-old Championship when the NSW Open begins on March 25th at Concord Golf Club.
Athletes from every State in Australia will also be competing.
General Manager of Golf, Golf NSW, Graeme Phillipson, said the number of competitors was extremely pleasing given the pandemic.
"The commitment of several internationals to make the trek to our shores, quarantine, and remain away from family and friends for such an incredibly long time shows the commitment required to play golf at the highest level," Phillipson said.
"The commitment of several internationals to make the trek to our shores, quarantine, and remain away from family and friends for such an incredibly long time shows the commitment required to play golf at the highest level." – Graeme Phillipson
In addition to the large field, Phillipson added several local players were competing in this year's NSW Open who, due to travel restrictions, wouldn't usually be in the field, in particular, a number who usually ply their trade on the lucrative Japanese Tour.
"Brendan Jones, a 15-time winner on the Japan Tour, is playing for the first time in many years," Phillipson added. "Brendan was a former standout amateur for NSW before his pro career, so it's definitely a thrill to see him return to compete in his home state Open."
Also joining Jones are a couple of other Japanese Tour players, Matt Griffin, Dylan Perry, and Brad Kennedy, while Anthony Quayle, who won the North Coast Region Open back in December, is also in the field for Concord.
With the field for the championship proper capped at 144, competition for the remaining nine pre-qualifying positions will be close. Golf NSW will use three venues to determine the field's final makeup, Belmont near Newcastle, Wollongong, and Liverpool Golf Clubs. Qualifying will take place on Monday, March 22nd.
"It's the first time we have used two regional centres for final qualifying. Like the Regional Open Series, Final Qualifying is a fantastic chance to bring a small taste of the Open to even more of the State," Phillipson said.