The return of New Zealand's greatest golfer is a huge boost ahead of the prestigious Carrus Tauranga Open at the picturesque Tauranga Golf Club course from Thursday through to Sunday.
Sir Bob Charles tees off in Wednesday's pro-am at 11.30am, in his first appearance at the course since 1981.
The former British Open winner played in the last NZPGA Championship to be played at Tauranga and it was a memorable event for Charles. He finished runner-up - but what made it special was he scored a hole-in-one at the 5th hole, the first and only ace in New Zealand of his long and outstanding golfing career.
The cream of New Zealand-based professional and amateur golfers will vie for the Carrus title, a tournament purse of $40,000 and valuable points on the Charles Tour.
The full field of 132 players start on Thursday morning and will be reduced to the 60 lowest scorers, plus ties, for the final two rounds at the weekend.
The professional field includes local hopefuls in former Eisenhower team member Jared Pender, former amateur captain Kieran Muir and the Bay's top performer at last year's interprovincial, James Hamilton.
A field of 18 women will also be in action, including Auckland's highly regarded Larissa Eruera and the best of the locals Tyla Kingi (Opotiki Golf Club) and Grace Senior (Tauranga Golf Club).
Bay of Plenty Golf CEO Chris McAlpine is thrilled to have Charles at this year's event.
"It is of special significance to have Sir Bob here, as the whole tour is named after him. This is only the second Charles Tour event he has been to outside his home course in Christchurch.
"He is keen to be back where he won professional tournaments and it is thanks to Tauranga Golf Club and NZ Golf board member Michael Smith, who approached Bob and asked him to come here.
"It is a very good field but the fact we don't have the likes of former winner Mike Hendry, who is playing in Japan, and Ryan Fox, who is competing at the New Caledonia Open, bears testimony to the success of the Charles Tour, as these players have moved up in the golfing world from the tour.
"The top three amateur men and women are in Turkey, preparing for the Eisenhower and Espirito Santo events, however it's great to have former Johnny Walker winner Mark Brown, as well as Richard Lee, who shot a course record 59 at Tauranga Golf Club in this event two years ago.
"It's also great to welcome back past winner Mark Purser, who is taking a break from his university studies to play.
"Other top performers include Grant Moorhead and Doug Holloway, who has already tasted success on the Charles Tour by twice winning the Wairakei Open." The men's amateur field is led by New Zealand squad members Josh Munn, Fraser Wilkin, Sam An and 2010 Amateur Strokeplay Champion Bradley Kendall, who on Saturday won the Mount Maunganui Championship."
Tyler Hodge is another high profile young player worth watching. The 17-year-old from the Levin Golf Club made golfing history earlier this month when he won the NZ Under-19 title to become the only Kiwi to hold Australian and New Zealand junior titles concurrently. The player he beat by one shot to win the NZ title, Chris Charlton from Otumoetai Golf Club, is also hitting form at the right time.
Other local amateurs include Landyn Edwards, Peter Lee and Victor Janin (all Rotorua Golf Club) and Craig Hamilton (Omanu).