South Africa’s top amateurs are set to face strong international opposition in this year’s South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship, which tees off at Oubaai Golf Club from 12-15 February.South African number one and defending champion Haydn Porteous will spearhead the local challenge alongside his Ten Nations Cup teammates Zander Lombard, Louis Taylor and Dylan Raubenheimer, ranked second, fifth and seventh respectively on the current South African Golf Association’s (SAGA) rankings.
Porteous said the South Africans are ready to throw down the gauntlet to ensure the trophy stays on home soil.
“The SA Stroke Play is one of the two most prestigious tournaments on the South African amateur circuit, so we want to keep the title at home, without a doubt, “ Porteous said.
But the local delegation could have their bid for glory thwarted by a strong international challenge.Seven of the eight visiting nations that competed in an international teams event in George last week are playing in the prestigious tournament, including the victorious Australian side, runners-up New Zealand, Argentina, Scotland, Ireland and France, as well as four additional members of the Scottish Men’s National Squad and one of Zimbabwe’s top golfers, Christian Kayumba-Mbanga.
World number five Brady Watt will lead the Australian challenge, 44th ranked Max Orrin heads the English team alongside Toby Tree, who beat Porteous for his second successive Gauteng North Open title three weeks go, while New Zealand Stroke Play and Match Play champion Vaughan McCall will lead the New Zealand attack.
Australian manager David Nable said the team produced some exciting golf and they are optimistic of having another successful week in South Africa.
“Brady Watt shot a course record 62 at Kingswood, while Ryan Ruffles, who is only 14, shot a seven-under-par 65 and our 16-year-old, Lucas Herbert, shot a 66 in the final round,” he said.
“The team improved throughout the tournament as they adjusted the conditions, so they are certainly ready to challenge and hopefully Australia can have another good week in South Africa.”
Porteous, who comes into the tournament on the back of a win at the Prince’s Grant Invitational, a tie for third in the KZN Open and a runner-up finish in the Gauteng North Open, is confident that the South Africans will present a strong challenge.
“We expect more tough opposition from the visitors, but I think our local knowledge will work in our favour, especially when the wind gets up at Oubaai,” the world number 37 said.
“Oubaai ranks among the top courses in South Africa for a good reason. It’s a lot tougher than Kingswood and you have to have your wits about you when you are coming down the closing stretch with the South-Easterly blowing into you.
“Zander and Dylan had two good final rounds at the Ten Nations Cup and Louis was absolutely solid all week. Guys like Gerlou Roux and Jason Froneman are in form and great wind players. So I think the local guys will have what it takes to win.”
Former professional Roux won several times on the mid-amateur circuit in 2012. He ranks fourth on the current SAGA rankings after a sixth place finish in the Prince’s Grant Invitational, seventh at the Gauteng North Open and second in the Free State & Northern Cape Open.
Froneman, who won the Glacier Junior Series Final in windy conditions at Hermanus Golf Club in October, broke though for his first Open Amateur victory at the Free State & Northern Cape Open earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Taylor is also looking to break through for his first podium finish. The Harrismith golfer was South Africa’s top scorer at the Ten Nations Cup and claimed a top 10 finish in the Individual Competition. He, too, expects a South African to win.
“The greens are quite tricky, because the grain is very different to what the international players are used to,” Taylor said. “They are also a little slower, smaller than those at Kingswood and very undulating. I think that could make things quite tough for the foreigners when the wind starts to blow, but it could just give the South Africans the edge.”
The SA Amateur Stroke Play is played over 72 holes, and the field of 144 will be cut to 65 and ties after 36 holes.