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Hollywood star jets in for Queenstown golf

Published: 6:27AM Wednesday March 28, 2012 Source: Fairfax

Among the thousands pouring into the Wakatipu for the tee off of Sir Michael Hill's NZGA Pro-Am Championship is a well-known Hollywood face that may duck the limelight.

Don Cheadle's name not be instantly recognisable, but his distinctive face, which has graced the silver screen in numerous Hollywood films, usually gets a nod of recognition for a body of critically acclaimed work.

Aside from starring in films including Boogie Nights, Traffic, Hotel Rwanda, Crash and the Ocean's Eleven, Rush Hour and Iron Man films, the actor is a self-professed "golf nut".

Proving that status, the actor jetted halfway across the world to take part in the inaugural tournament this week.

Sir Michael said a Kiwi connection, Paul Parlane was key in getting Cheadle to the Wakatipu. Parlane is a pro coach and academy head based at the Mountain Gate Country Club in Los Angeles.

Cheadle plays a 10-handicap and is a regular at celebrity pro-am tournaments. He will join a field of 64 amateurs, including ex-All Blacks Justin Marshall, Andy Haden and Jeff Wilson, and ex-Wallaby Nick Farr-Jones.

During a flight from Auckland to Queenstown flight, Cheadle joined world No 1 women's amateur Lydia Ko and well-known New Zealand golfer Phil Tataurangi in an in-flight putting challenge at 30,000 feet.

Tournament insiders have said Cheadle may avoid the press while he is at the tournament - because he is on holiday with his family, and has so far spoken only through his agent - but were quick to add that the star seemed very down to earth and friendly and, with luck, a few interviews might be on the cards.

Hundreds of volunteers, who help with everything from parking to course marshalling, are also flocking to Arrowtown, along with almost 100 caddies, who will be assigned to even amateur golfers.

Sir Michael said it was very gratifying to be in a position where so many volunteers were happy to give up their time to help out with the tournament.