JOHANNESBURG, S. Africa (Nov. 17, 2013) -- The five amateurs selected by the South African Golf Association to tee it up in the 103rd South African Open Championship at Glendower Golf Club this week, certainly validated their selection at the Central Gauteng Open Stroke Play on Sunday.
While reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion Thriston Lawrence and South Africa’s number one ranked amateur Christiaan Bezuidenhout headed into a play-off at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, NJ Arnoldi, Zander Lombard and Louis Taylor finished third, fourth and sixth respectively.
Mpumalanga’s Lawrence took a two shot lead over Lombard and Arnoldi into the final round after earlier rounds of 70-68-70, but Bezuidenhout lagged seven shots behind.
The country’s top amateur rebounded with a flawless eight-under-par 64, though, that included a string of four birdies from the ninth hole and set the clubhouse target at nine-under-par 279.
Lawrence birdied three of the last five holes, but his closing 71 left him one shot shy of avoiding extra time and the pair headed back to the 10th for the decider.
Both players split the fairway at the par-four, but while Lawrence pitched his approach 20-foot from the pin, Bezuidenhout’s second shot landed in the rough to the right of the green.
“Christiaan chipped to about three feet and I lagged the ball about a foot short of the pin,” Lawrence explained. “After Christiaan’s putt horse-shoed, I tapped in for par and clinched the win.
“I’m really happy to bag a provincial title against a really tough line-up, but I think that it was a great tournament for all of us ahead of the SA Open.
“We’re all heading over to Glendower on Monday for a practice round and we are really excited.”
The 16-year-old from Nelspruit was nervous about teeing it up with defending champion Henrik Stenson before this week, but after watching the Swede drain an eagle putt at the Earth Course at the Jumeirah Golf Estates to lift the DP World Tour Championship by six shots and add the 2013 Race to Dubai to his PGA Tour FedEx Cup win, he is bursting with excitement.
“You can’t even begin to compete with that; it was simply master class,” said Lawrence.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to play with Mr Stenson. I hope I will learn a lot from him and I hope I play well enough so it’s not only two rounds, but four. Either way, I am going to make the most of this experience anyway.”
Ekurhuleni’s Arnoldi closed with a 71 to finish in third on 281, Lombard from Gauteng North sealed fourth place at 283 with a closing 73 and Taylor from Central Gauteng carded a 73 to finish joint sixth with local favourite, Andi Dill, on two-under-par 286.
Dill will be among 126 amateurs who will tee it up in the qualifying round for this year’s South African Open Championship on Tuesday, 19 November. With a record entry of 581 players, 361 hopefuls will battle it out for just 15 spots on offer at three qualifying venues.