Cool hand Porteous closes out for SA Stroke Play title

Despite coming under intense pressure from Italy’s Andrea Bolognesi, South Africa’s Haydn Porteous was the coolest man at the final hole at Glendower Golf Club as he closed out the South African Stroke Play Championship with a even-par 72 on Friday.

The 17-year-old surrendered a three shot lead to the Italian after a bogey at the 12th and a double at the 13th – his Achilles Heel through four rounds.

But Porteous showed incredible resilience to reel off two birdies in his final four holes and win one of the most prestigious titles on the amateur circuit. His winning score was eight-under-par 280, one stroke better than the Italian, who closed with a 74.

“Words can’t explain how I feel,” said the emotional winner, who dedicated the victory to his good friend and 2011 winner, Jared Harvey.

“My body is shaking and I don’t know if I want to laugh or cry. This has just been one of most unbelievable moments of my life. You don’t really know what to do, except smile. After Jared won last year, he challenged me and I swore I would win this for him.

“I can’t wait to get him on the phone to tell him I pulled it off.”

Porteous, playing with Bolognesi and Musi Nethunzwi in the final group, began his title charge one shot behind the Italian and one ahead of a chasing pack including Nethunzwi, Brandon Stone, Desne van den Bergh, as well as Toby Tree from England.

After seven steady pars, he birdied the eighth and hit the front, putting three shots between himself and Bolognesi, Van den Bergh and Filippo Bergamaschi of Italy.

“I watched Musi hit it in the water on 12, so I went right and ended up under the trees,” he said.

“I had to chip out and ended up making a bogey and it was a two-shot swing when Bolognesi birdied the hole. He is an incredible competitor under pressure and I knew I would have to birdie 13 to catch up to him.”

But the 13th has been a problem for Porteous all week.

“I haven’t been able to make anything happen at that hole. I had no confidence standing on the tee. It was probably the most conservative that I’ve played the hole all week.

“But I found the water yet again. That was the third successive time this week. Double bogey, five over for that hole this week; it’s just not right. I told Mike, the head greenkeeper, they should dig up that hole and make it a par three.”

The country’s number two amateur knew he would have to make a few birdies coming home to put pressure on the Italian.

He delivered the shot of the tournament at the par-five 15th, where he pulled off a magnificent flop shot to match Bolognesi’s birdie.

”That was the best flop shot of my life,” said Porteous. “I was 30 metres out with no green to work with but it came out perfectly and finished about three foot from the hole. At the par-three, the 17th, I knew I had to sink an eight-footer when Bolognesi bogeyed and I drilled it in.

“I went into the 18th with a lot of hope. I hit my tee shot exactly where I wanted to, just to the right of the middle of the fairway. That put the pressure I needed on Bolognesi.

The Italian pushed his approach over the pin, leaving himself with a 20-foot downhill putt which he rolled six foot past.

“Mine was below the pin, about 20-feet and I hit the lip and rolled to about a foot and a half. I knew he would have a tough second putt, All I could do was wait to see what Bolognesi would do and when he missed the putt by a couple of feet, I have to admit I was relieved.”

But after Bolognesi putted for bogey, Porteous had a tap in for victory.

“I took my time, stuck to my routine, even when I just faced a tap-in,” said Porteous. “I drank a little water, checked the line, all the normal stuff, just to calm myself down. The last thing you want to do is miss a tap-in putt and go into a play-off with a bad head.

“I was so relieved when that putt dropped, I didn’t know what to do for about 10 second. I have to say, though, I feel a bit sorry for Bolognesi – he’s a solid golfer and it would have been a really good play-off had he parred the last.”

Now Porteous will join the rest of the hopefuls at the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship at Mowbray Golf Club from February 26. “I’m definitely going to go for the double,” he said. “Being match play and with a two round qualifier, it’s a lot more golf, but I’ll be lot more positive than last year.

“But first there is the little matter of the Test against the Scottish Elite Squad at Leopard Creek next week. We’ve won two years on the trot and we don’t plan coming second this year.”

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