All Scottish Final for Sanlam SA Amateur
South Africa is turning into a happy hunting ground for the Brits as the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship semi-finals dished up an all-Scottish final at Vaal de Grace on Wednesday.
Last year England’s Laurie Canter captured a 6 & 5 victory over Allen Versfeld and this year, two top Scottish players will fight it for bragging rights on the country’s most prestigious amateur title.
Paul Shields (pictured) eliminated the country’s last man standing when he beat unheralded Jacques Kruyswijk 3 and 2 to set up a thrilling final round clash with Scottish number two compatriot Michael Stewart. The reigning Scottish Amateur champion came back from three down to beat his Scottish Elite Squad team mate, Jordan Findlay, at the first extra hole.
Both Shields and Kruyswjik drove it in the water at the third, but Shields drew first blood when he managed a par at the five. The Nylstroom-based Kruyswijk retaliated to level the match with an eagle at the fifth against Shields’s birdie.
Both players parred the sixth and birdied the seventh, but the Scot won the eighth with birdie when Kruyswijk’s approach missed the green. The Scot birdied the 10th to go two up and the pair split the difference through the next four holes.
“We halved the 14th with a birdie apiece and I knocked in a 10-footer for birdie at the 15th,” said Shields. “Jacques hit it in the bunker at 16 and conceded the hole when I lagged my first putt to within inches of the hole.”
Shields is no stranger to the pressure and he was full of praise for his resilient opponent, who defeated Callum Mowat (2-up), Gert Myburgh (5/3), Jean Claude van Dommelen (5/3) and Stephen Pienaar 4 and 2 on his way to the semi-final.
“On paper it might not look like a tough match, but Jacques kept the pressure on all the way. He hit two great shots at the fifth and he forced me to go for a lot of shots. I think the difference was that I never missed a fairway all day.”
Meanwhile Findlay was determined to get one over on Stewart in what the squad loosely dubbed a “grudge match” after the Troon Wellbeck player beat Findlay 3/2 in the 36-hole final to win the Scottish Mens Amateur last year.
The Fraserburgh golfer grabbed advantage at the first, Stewart birdied the second to square the match, but Findlay got the upper hand again, going two up with successive birdies at the fourth and fifth.
The former British Boys Golf Champion kept his nose in front for the next three holes until Stewart won the ninth but three holes better the tied turned in Findlay’s favour again. The 20-year-old from
Fraserburgh won knocked in birdie putts at the 12th and 13th to go three clear of Stewart.
“I think that was the kicker,” said Stewart. “I missed a couple of short putts and that really got me mad. I knew I had to make birdies to beat Jordon. I knocked in a short on at the 14th to win the hole and holed an eight-footer at the 16th to get back to 1-up.”
Stewart held Findlay off with a great up and down from the greenside bunker for par to halve the 17th and holed out for birdie from 15 feet to win the 18th. At the first extra hole, Stewart split the fairway of the first but Findlay drove the right semi-rough. Stewart’s wedge approach, three-foot from the pin, proved the match clincher when Findlay missed an eight-footer for birdie.
“I’m split down the middle about this win,” said Stewart. “Jordan and I have been playing together for near on nine years and we are great mates, so while I’m really stoked about playing in the final tomorrow, I’m really gutted for him.”
And while Shields is adamant not to get bogged down by thinking ahead in the final, Stewart hopes to replicate the same golf he produced over the closing holes today.
“Paul is striking it superbly this week and he holing from everywhere,” he said. “He’s shot two 65s this week, so he is really on form and I’ll have to bring my A-game tomorrow.”
Asked if giving his team mate an early birthday present for his 21st on Sunday, Shields responded with a snort and said: “He’ll have to earn it, if he wants it that bad.”
Click here for the tournament website.