In-form South Africans can shine at Sanlam SA Amateur

Winning the Sanlam South African Amateur Match Play title is the crowning glory for any South African amateur golfer. And, after foreigners claimed the last three championships, the South African contingent are determined to bring the trophy home.

“We really need to step up this year,” said reigning SA Stroke Play champion Haydn Porteous ahead of the Stroke Play qualifier, which tees off at Country Club Johannesburg on Sunday.

“The match play format is tough, because anything can happen, but I believe South Africa has the talent and determination this year to make sure the trophy comes home.”

England’s Laurie Canter led the international dominance when he beat Allan Versfeld for the Sanlam SA Amateur title in East London in 2010. The following year, Scottish number one Michael Stewart beat compatriot Paul Shields to lift the trophy at Vaal de Grace. Brian Soutar eliminated Louis Taylor, Shaun Smith and Brandon Stone to make it two for two for the Scots at Mowbray Golf Club last year.

This year’s championship has once again drawn a strong international presence, including England’s Toby Tree, the four-man team from New Zealand that claimed second place at the recent Ten Nations Cup and 12 players from the Scottish Golf Union’s Mens National Squad.

Porteous is a firm favourite for the elusive double after winning the season-opening Prince’s Grant Invitational and successfully defending his SA Stroke Play title earlier this month, but the country’s number one ranked player believes he has enough wingmen to bring the title home.

“The Sanlam SA Amateur is such a prestigious title and every local amateur dreams of lifting that trophy,” he said. “I think the international line-up will add fuel to our determination to pull off a home victory this year.”

England’s Tree, who successfully defended his Gauteng North Open Stroke Play title in January and Ewan Scott from Scotland, who finished fourth at the SA Stroke Play, could lead the international challenge, but Porteous says any of the top 10 amateurs could have their number.

The top 10 players include Zander Lombard, Taylor, Gerlou Roux, Werner Ferreira, Aubrey Barnard, Dylan Raubenheimer, Callum Mowat and Andrew Light.

“Anyone of these players can pose a threat, especially those who came into form during the recent SA Stroke Play,” he said. “Louis and Eddie Taylor came through strong to finish in the top 10, and so did Werner and Zander. But there are also some juniors that could really step it up.

“Mpumalanga’s Thriston Lawrence is only 16, but he tied for 11th at the Stroke Play and he is the current SA Junior Match Play champion. The reigning SA Junior Stroke Play champion, Tristen Strydom, is another one to watch.

“Kyle McClatchie had a great test against the Scots and the SAGDB in the Triangular Invitational, so he will be coming in with some form and Jovan Rebula is one of the hottest juniors on the circuit at the moment.”

Sanlam Group Marketing Sponsorship manager, Gary van Loggerenberg, said the championship has grown in stature over the last three years, drawing a strong international line-up each year.

“The status of the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship is on par with some of the most prestigious tournaments on the international amateur schedule,” he said.

“We really welcome the foreign participation as it gives our local players a wonderful opportunity to test themselves against top international players and increase their competitive experience.

“The internationals have won the title for the last three years, but we believe that the depth of talent on the current circuit here in South Africa will shine through and produce a home champion this year.”

The field of 144 amateurs will contest the 36-hole qualifier, with only the top 64 players challenging for the Sanlam SA Amateur over three rounds of match play from 26 February to 1 March.

The Match Play stages consist of 18 holes on Tuesday, 18 holes in the morning and afternoon of Wednesday and Thursday respectively and the final will be played over 36 holes on Friday.

This year’s winner will be exempt into the 2013 South African Open Championship and play alongside defending champion Henrik Stenson from Sweden.

Click HERE for the Stroke Play Qualifier tee times

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