1 Sport

Alker returns home, gunning to become oldest winner of NZ Open

Steven Alker's last 16 months has been one of New Zealand sport's most incredible stories.

From plugging away on the PGA Tour and second tier tour for more than a decade, to dominating the Champions Tour, beating names such as Els, Langer and Harrington, to name a few.

Now, the 51-year-old's home for the first time in four years and trying to become the oldest winner of the New Zealand Open.

Asked if winning at Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown would trump it all, his answer was unequivocal.

"It would," Alker said matter-of-factly, citing when he won the low amateur title in the late 80s.

Steven Alker practicing at Millbrook.

"It's been a long time supporting the event and being back in New Zealand. So to come home and play is special and close to my heart."

As for being the favourite at 51, Alker for a moment thought those were his odds to win the tournament.

"I guess I peaked a bit later than I wanted to. But it's just great to be home and playing well. I'm comfortable at home. There are some big expectations but I don't put too much expectation on this, I just want to play [well] and enjoy being at the New Zealand Open."

His Champions Tour record reads like it's scarcely believable. In 35 events he's played he's won five of them, finishing in the top 10 on 29 occasions. Being that successful, and everything that comes with it, has been a challenge for Alker.

"A lot more attention on my game and our life - where we are what we're doing, that sort of thing. It's been exciting, a whirlwind," Alker explained, while walking around the new nine holes at Millbrook for the first time.

"I think the biggest thing is just the time management, getting everything in, doing the right thing, pleasing people, doing the media and social media is being on the Champions Tour, but it's been great and it's been exciting."

Steven Alker is gunning to become the oldest winner of the NZ Open.

But it hasn't all been easy for him. Alker's caddy Sam Workman passed away earlier in the month from cancer.

"Sam's passing is still a shock to be honest, it was so quick. He was with me for four years and that's a long time for a caddy-player relationship. We became great friends.

"He's going to be sorely missed and hard to replace."

Alker will play in Workman's honour this week in the aim of lifting the Brodie Breeze Trophy for the first time.

The tournament starts on Thursday.


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