Albert Venter (photo cred. Ernest Blignault)
South Africa’s Albert Venter swept to a five stroke victory in the inaugural African Amateur Stroke Play Championship on Saturday thanks in no small part to two superb 65s at the Leopard Creek Golf Estate.
The 19-year-old stunned with seven birdies on the back nine in the first round to lead England’s Jamie Bower by six strokes with his first 65.
He had to share pole position with Bower, Scotland’s Jamie Savage and fellow South Africans Kyle McClatchie and Jason Rossiter after a second round 73, but a flawless performance for 65 in the third round pushed Venter clear of the chasing pack.
The Centurion player was three strokes ahead of Bower, who recently won the Gauteng North Open, at the start of the final round, while Savage and Rossiter lurked five off the pace and Scottish pair Jack McDonald and Craig Ross a further stroke back.
Venter triumphed on 16-under-par 274 and the fact that he limped home with a hat-trick of bogeys at the closing holes barely diminished his delight at the international breakthrough.
“To win by such a large margin is a really great feeling,” he said. “I expected the guys behind me to charge and I was ready to fight for the win.”
Venter birdied two but lost the early advantage when he couldn’t up-and-down for par at the third. He exchanged another birdie at six for a bogey at eight, but then the putts started dropping.
“I birdied 10, 11 13 and 15 and I had a six shot cushion after 15,” he said. “I got a little greedy because I wanted to post a low score, and I played the last three holes too aggressively.”
Venter bogeyed 16 after a visit to the hazard, flew his second over the green at 17 and couldn’t up-and-down for par. At 18 he tried to take on the flag, but his effort died a watery death
“I had 214 yards to the flag and I mailed a four iron, but I found the water. It didn’t matter since I had a lot of shots in hand, but it would have been nice to finish with par, at least.
“If I had a do-over, I would definitely play differently, but that’s how you learn.”
The 2014 Eastern Province Stroke Play champion was over the moon with his international coup.
“This is a huge win for me,” he said. “There were international champions and the top golfers from more than 10 countries in the field this week and to beat them is a huge deal for me.
“I saw that you could hit a lot of wedges or short irons into the par fours on the back nine, and that was my game plan. I really want to thank SAGA and GolfRSA for giving us this tournament and the chance to compete against top class international players.
“We are really grateful to Mr Rupert for his huge contribution to the National Squad and for opening up Leopard Creek to us. It was an unbelievable experience to play in a field of this calibre at a championship course like Leopard Creek.”
Venter was also very proud to continue a strong run for HPC Golf Academy that started with Brandon Stone in the BMW SA Open.
“I competed with Zander Lombard and to watch him chase Haydn (Porteous) at the Joburg Open was really inspirational,” Venter said.
“Then Marco (Steyn) won the Leopard Trophy and the Free State Open, Dylan (Naidoo) won Dr Bam and Jason (Smith) finished second in the SA Stroke Play. Louis de Jager won on the IGT Tour and even Melissa (Eaton) did great at the Cape Town Ladies Open on Friday.
“We all train together, so when you see all these guys perform it encourages you to try harder. I’m really proud that I’ve joined that list and hopefully I’m going to inspire some guys to step it up.”
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.