Glendower will test SA Stroke Play field
When Glendower Golf Club hosts the South African Stroke Play Championship from 7-10 February, it will be exactly 25 years since the prestigious course last saw such top amateur action.
When the Bedfordview course hosted the 1987 South African Amateur Match Play and Stroke Play Championships, Ben Fouchee was dominating the amateur circuit that year and the Paarl amateur astounded when he won all three coveted pieces of amateur silverware.
He won the Proudfoot Trophy as the leading amateur after 36 holes, beat Ernie Els 1-up to win the Match Play, and claimed the Stroke Play title as well over 54 holes.
“Once I won the Proudfoot, there was no turning back,” said Fouchee. “The course played very long due to the rain. The layout was tough enough, but it was almost impossible to stop the balls on the greens.
“I remember playing with a hard ball throughout the week. In the end, they had to shorten the Stroke Play to 54 holes, but I still managed to beat John Howie and Ernie for the title. To this day, it’s one of my greatest achievements.”
And Fouchee’s achievement stood for two decades until Louis de Jager clinched the trio of titles at Humewood Golf Club in 2007.
Glendower may only have hosted one SA Amateur, but has a proud championship history in South African golf.
In 1939, four-time Major winner Bobby Locke won the Transvaal Open Championship in rounds of 66-69-66-64 for a world record score of 265.
In 1989, American Fred Wadsworth won the South African Open Championship on a revamped Glendower layout which saw all 18 greens reshaped and rebuilt, new tee positions added, existing water hazards cleared and extended, and new water features added at a number of holes.
In 1993, Clinton Whitelaw beat Ernie Els to the South African Open title, and then in 1997, Vijay Singh became the third SA Open winner at Glendower.
But when the field of 144 national and international amateur golfers take to this classic parkland layout in Bedfordview for this year’s Stroke Play Championship, they will face an even sterner test than their contemporaries braved 25 years ago.
After embarking on a major project to modernise its greens and reposition its bunkering at the end of 2008, the new Glendower will be an even tougher test.
“The greens were changed to conform to USGA specifications and the A1-A4 mix of bent grass has improved the putting surface,” said head greenkeeper Mike Burnard. “Now that they have properly grown in and settled, they are formidable, and fast.
“All the bunkers had a facelift and most of the fairway traps are set around 250 metres, which is driving distance from the championship tees. The bigger hitters used to clear them, but now they have to really plan and execute their tee shots well.”
Two other bigger alterations have also increased the degree of difficulty of the course.
“The green at the 18th was moved left, making the uphill par four a great deal more demanding. The other major alteration was the green at the fifth hole, which was moved to a new site. This has turned a relatively easy par four into a real tiger of a hole. It has, in fact, played as the toughest hole in the Sunshine Tour’s past three BMG Classics.”
After winning the first BMG Classic in 2009, Canadian professional Graham DeLaet said Glendower is a true test of the game. “It’s a real gem,” he said. “I’ve played a lot in different parts of the world and this is one of the top courses I’ve come across.”
And European Tour campaigner and former leading amateur George Coetzee also gave the revamp his stamp of approval. “It’s a great test of golf now,” he said.
“It tests your long and short game; the new bunkering is extremely well done and the greens are fantastic. This is a proper golf course, as good as you’ll see anywhere in Europe.”
The SA Stroke Play Championship is contested over 72 holes and the field of 144 will be cut to 65 and ties after 36 holes.
No foreigner has won the South African Stroke Play Championship since 2002, but nearly 30 amateurs from seven countries abroad, including Austria, England, France, Italy, Namibia, Scotland and Zimbabwe, have arrived in South Africa and will be playing to win.
The local challengers could not hope for a better time and better venue to step up and be counted.
To visit official tournament site, click here.