Canter and Versfeld renew rivalry in Match Play Final
EAST LONDON, 4 March 2010 – Conventional wisdom dictates that playing from points other than the pristine fairways at East London Golf Club is a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, a sweet short game salvaged Laurie Canter and Allan Versfeld to deliver a palatable result in their semi-final round matches in the 108th Glacier SA Amateur.
While the Englishman clinched a 1-up victory over South Africa’s Dean O’Riley, Versfeld pulled off a 2 & 1 victory over Rae Mackie in games that both winners both dominated and surrendered over the course of 18 holes
Now the two Proudfoot Trophy finalists will meet again.
Canter won the stroke play qualifier at the first extra hole and galloped his way to the semi-final in easy victories but in the semi-final the 20-year-old from Bath lacked the precision off the tee that served him well during a successful build-up. He made up for some wild driving over the closing holes with well-played recoveries and putting.
Three successive birdies from the third and another at the eighth left Canter at four under and 2-up after 10 holes, while O’Riley kept in touch with birds at the third and fourth. “We were both playing solid golf over the front nine, but the wind and some wicked pin placements got the better of me after the turn,” said Canter.
“I picked up another birdie at the 11th to go 3-up, bogeyed the 13th and made a brilliant bogey to half the 14th with Dean,” he said. “Then I lost the plot at 15.”
After a decent tee shot, Canter flared a 3-wood into the trees left. His third flew the green and got the Englishman hot under the collar. “I got mad at myself. I had no reason to hit a 3-wood, no reason at all. But I think I was still steamed about the bogey at 13. I think that’s when I think the meltdown began.”
Having conceded the 15th, Canter’s tee shot at 16 found the fairway bunker. After a bunker to greenside bunker visit, he conceded the 16th , as well. “All of a sudden we were back to all square. In my state of mind, I was actually relieved that Dean had to face the gale force wind at 17 first.”
O’Riley’s tee shot veered right and got stuck in the fringe. He badly fluffed his chip, which dropped in the bunker and blasted out, only to leave his putt about 20 feet short of the pin. “I couldn’t believe where Dean hit the ball, but hitting into a gale like that I just felt very sorry for him.” O;Riley conceded and with Canter holding the advantage, belted his drive down the 18th fairway in a last chance effort to square the match.
Canter, who last visited the 18th in the qualifier, hit an apprehensive 2-iron which fell way shot of his opponent’s and left him with a blind approach to the green. “I played it the same way in the qualifier, so I was pretty confident that my second shot would be okay. Of course, when I got there it had flown over the green and was lying in an old divot at the bottom of the hill.”
After a blind tee shot and a blind approach, Canter pulled off a textbook chip to about three foot. O’Riley, on the tee for two, missed his putt for birdie by a smidgen and Canter holed out for par for the match.
“I knew I would be severely tested somewhere this week and I think the match against Dean was it,” said Canter. “He didn’t give an inch all day and is one of the grittiest opponents I’ve ever played. He just never let up. It was a great match, even if the golf was not always up to scratch.
“I don’t know much about Allan apart from the one hole we played in the qualifier, but I expect the final to go much the same way.”
While the Canter-O’Reiley bout was a scrambling exercise, the match between Mackie and Versfeld turned into a proper tug-of-war for power.
Versfeld drew first blood at the opening hole, Mackie won the third to square the match and Versfeld edged ahead after winning the fifth. At the seventh, Versfeld holed out for birdie to go 2-up but his lead was nullified when Mackie won the ninth and 10th.
“I birdied 11 and won the 12th so I was 2-up again, but at the 13th, I had to concede the hole” explained Versfeld. “I went into the long grass and made such a hash of the hole; it wasn’t pretty.”
At the 16th, the 18-year-old from Wanderers hit 3-wood into greenside bunker, but splashed out to about two foot and holed the putt to regain the advantage. “I was 1-up with two to play and I just told myself into staying calm and hitting it tee to green, not an easy thing to do when you’re facing a gale force win standing at the 17th.”
Versfeld floored a 7-iron from 140 yards and still left it short. Two putts later, the hole was halved and a relieved Versfeld could return to the clubhouse a winner just as the heavens opened.
“I did gain the advantage in the wind, because I hit it that much further than Rae, but it was still a tough match, very scrappy and up and down. I don’t expect it to be much different on Friday. Laurie is a tough opponent, but it is 36 holes, so anything can happen. Going a couple at the start of the match is no indication of how it will end. It will be important to take advantage of the par-fives and to keep the bogeys to the bare minimum.”
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