Golf: Kiwi sports stars come together in tournament for a good cause

Drive for show putt for dough is a golf saying that typically holds true - except for today.

That's because today was the start of the on-course activities of the Aotearoa Golf Invitational, a tournament that is raising plenty of dough for the charity, Mates in Construction.

The first event to tee off was the long drive competition.

Those competing were the tournament's celebrity captains. Some of the big names included Halberg Champion Eric Murray, Emirates Team NZ grinders Steve Ferguson and Simon van Velthoovern, All Whites Coach Danny Hay, former golf pro Phil Tataurangi and former All Black Stephen Donald.

TV3's very own Mark Richardson was there as well.

"I love my golf, I don't get to play because some people make me work too much." Richardson joked.

Richardson even bought a brand new driver for the long drive competition.

"First one was good. First one went dead straight and out of the screws.

"But I was quite depressed actually when the numbers came up I was quite a long way behind the other guys but you know - age."

But today was more than just a day off work and a chance to hammer some balls for these celebrities.

It was a chance to help raise funds for Mates in Construction - a charity that aims to improve mental wellness and reduce the alarming suicide rates in the construction industry, an industry former professional cricketer and tournament organiser Nathan McCullum now works in.

"Me and a couple of mates, Awen Guttenbeil and Chris Brebner got together and wanted to put on a bit of a golf tournament for some of our clients," McCullum tells Newshub. 

"Then we got together with Kelsen Butler from Sports Inc and it's turned into something a bit bigger than just a small golf tournament."

The construction industry has consistently been one of, if not the leading industry for suicide in New Zealand. Workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than a workplace accident.

The long drive competition and subsequent 18-hole ambrose tournament and prize giving, where celebrities team up with people in the construction industry, is a chance to raise some money and awareness among industry leaders.

"This was a great opportunity for us to support that cause and speak a little more about it openly and to have a number of athletes to do the same was truly inspiring," McCullum adds.

Suicide is a cause many spoke about being impacted or affected by directly.

"We both have lost family members and loved ones through suicide," Blackcaps bowler Neil Wagner said about himself and his wife.

"So to be able to give something back in an event like this is really close and dear to us so it'll mean a lot.

"She [his wife] said to me although I spend a lot of time away from home she was really up for it and for me to be here and know it's a really good cause."

Today Wagner swapped swinging a ball for swinging a club. He and 15 others took aim at taking out the longest drive competition, looking for bragging rights for the night.

Some nailed it down the middle while others got it out of the screws, especially Phillis Meti, a former World Long Drive Champion.

She flew her first drive - into the wind - 240 metres, on the full. One punter thought the technology was faulty. They thought it clearly went farther than that.

Bullsh*t" is what they said when the distance was read out.

"I'm grateful I was able to hit down the fairway because when I was practicing I was hitting it way out of bounds," Meti joked.

"The stats are high in terms of suicide rates in the construction industry and I think if we are able to grow awareness through what we do and through the channels we have and make it a bigger thing, then we can support our workers in the construction industry and hopefully we get to save more lives." 

But Meti didn't win. That honour went to Blackcaps batsman Martin Guptill who flew the ball 250 metres on the full. You could say he hit his for six.

Which is something they all hope they can help do to suicide in the construction industry.