Gobel eyes breakthrough at SA Senior Champs
Thanks to four rounds on some of the toughest Links courses in Scotland at the recent Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, unheralded Rurik Gobel will be gunning for the 28th Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Stroke Play Championship title on Friday.
Gobel doesn’t even appear on the South African Senior Amateur Rankings, but the unheralded 50-year-old business man from Randpark showed that he is no shrinking violet as he grabbed a share of the second round lead alongside South Africa’s top ranked senior Steve Williams.
A 73 from Gobel and 75 from Williams saw the pair perched at the top on one-over-par 145 on another hugely testing day at Kyalami Country Club that saw just one player shoot level par.
Stephen Rossiter’s 72 left him two back from the leaders in a tie for third with two-time former champion Mellette Hendrikse, who returned a 74.
Gobel was understandably delighted to be in the runner in his debut on senior amateur golf’s biggest stage.
“I travel so much for work that I don’t often get the chance to compete here at home, but when I turned 50 in March, I entered the SA Senior Stroke Play,” he said. “All of us dream of winning a national title and this was my chance to test myself against guys my own age and guys who don’t drive it 100 metres past me.”
He began the second round two shots behind Williams after opening with an even-par 72 and enjoyed an uninterrupted run of 11 straight pars before a double bogey at 12 spoiled his faultless card.
“It was really windy out there, so it wasn’t a day for heroics,” said Gobel, who birdied 14 and followed a drop at 17 with a birdie finish.
“I played solidly up to 12, where my tee shot finished up against a tree. I tried to play a low shot, but I duffed it and the ball hit another tree and ricochet backwards right past me. I managed to salvage a six with a good chip-and-putt.
“I hit eight-iron to eight feet at 14 and holed the putt, but missed the green at 17. Made another good chip, but I two-putted for bogey. At 18, I hit one of my best drives down the fairway, left my approach just short of the green and chipped it to three feet to set up a birdie finish.”
Gobel blames former SA Amateur champion Laurie Canter from England for his great form.
“I met Laurie when I was his marker for the television crew at the Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek and he was my partner at the Alfred Dunhill Links,” he said. “I was playing so poorly that I actually stopped playing for a month before I went to Scotland, but Laurie is such a great kid and he immediately got me back into the swing of things. We ended up in a tie for fourth, so I have him to thank for helping me hit form at the right time.”
Williams – the outright favourite coming into the flagship event – offset a lone bogey with two birdies to protect his overnight advantage on the front nine, but a pair of bogeys at the first and second and a string of three drops from the fourth crippled his challenge.
Always the fighter, the 55-year-old Modderfontein golfer holed a superb birdie at seven and kept his title bid alive with pars at the final two holes.
“I played very nicely on the front nine and turned one under after a birdie at 18, but it all went south on the way home,” said Williams. “Wrong club selections early on saw the bogeys pile up. I began to tighten up trying to salvage the round but this is not the kind of course, where you can play hook or fade or a low shot out of the trees. If you miss the fairway, you pay the price.
“I got that birdie at seven to end the bleeding and just missed another birdie chance at 18 when my third shot caught the lip of the bunker. I held on and I’ve given myself a chance, but I need to keep it in the fairway tomorrow. Besides Rurik there are a few more guys lurking, so the pressure is on.”
Williams leads the President’s Cup Division (55 years and older) by two shots from Hendriks, Ivan Palframan and Richard Bruyns share the lead in the Super Senior division for players 60 years and older on 154 and the Madala team scooped the 36-hole Madala Challenge with a 21 shot victory.
SECOND ROUND SCORES – TOP 20
145 Rurik Gobel 72 73; Steve Williams 70 75
147 Stephen Rossiter 75 72; Mellette Hendrikse 73 74
148 Stephen Johnston 75 73; Greg P Gleeson 73 75
150 Kevin Monk 77 73; Schalk Naude 76 74
151 Gordon Wessels 75 76
152 Chris Delport 76 76; Derek Reyneke 74 78
153 Morgan Phillips 75 78; Conrad Rauch 74 79
154 Ivan Palframan 79 75; Mark Ian Terrey 77 77; Lawrence Franklin 75 79; Colin Hayward 75 79; Richard Bruyns 74 80
155 Christie le Roux 80 75; Christo Reyneke 80 75; Thomas Hubner GER 79 76; Stephen Marais 77 78; Leonard Pienaar 75 80; Anthony Franklin 73 82
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.