Interesting first round; Canter through and one match goes 27 holes

Luke Jerling (left) and Johan Bekker; the latter winning on the 27th holeEAST LONDON, 2 March 2010 – As expected, the first round of match play action at Glacier SA Amateur at East London Golf Club delivered a mixed bag of results, including a broken curse, a near record and some unexpected exits among the tournament favourites.

Winner of the qualifier, Englishman Laurie Canter, knocked out Justin Levy 7 & 6 to break the Proudfoot curse, Rae Mackie and Cobus Oosthuizen caused the first major upsets by beating South Africa’s number four amateur JG Claassen and Aaron Russell respectively.

And, in one of the longest play-offs in the 108 year history of the national championship, Johan Bekker needed a full nine extra holes to finally shake young gun, Luke Jerling.

A visibly relieved Bekker paid tribute to the Jerlings’s tenacity after the match, saying that the Eastern Province teenager gave as good as he got all the way.

“Actually, if Luke’s putt at the 27th held the line, we would still be out there,” said the country’s number seven golfer from Ekurhuleni. Had Jerling’s putt held, the pair could have equalled or bettered the previous mark of 28 holes set by Robbie Stewart and Britain’s Peter Hedges in 1975 at Bloemfontein Golf Club.

Bekker had two eagles and together, the pair collected 18 birdies. “There were a couple of holes where it was touch and go,” said Jerling. “Neither of us gave an inch and in the end it came down to two putts.”

“I was really relieved when my putt held,” added Bekker,” but it was without a doubt one of the best games I’ve ever played. Luke is going to be a force to reckon with in the next couple of years.”

Englishman Canter spent a sleepless night worrying about his chances after he learned that it had been four years since the strokeplay qualifier winner made it past the first round.

“I’d rather not have known, because I barely slept,” said Laurie. “It was a real relief to get through it and play nicely today.” Two up after two holes, Canter extended his lead to five at the turn and pushed his score to seven up by the 11th hole. He clinched the match with an inspired up-and-down for par at the 12.

“It was good to get off to a solid start,” said Canter. “Justin didn’t have a good first hole and he tree-putted the second, so he kind of gave me the first two. I knew if I could continue to play solid, I was going to be tough to beat.”

The England A-Squad member will face Bryn Flanagan in the second round. Although he has met the joint SA Strokeplay runner-up, he prefers playing against the unknown. “In a way I’d rather not know anything about the guys I’m going to play. Once you get through the qualifier and the first round of match play, everyone is playing well, so anyone of the next 31 players would be a tough match. I just have to set up my store and make myself tough to beat and hope it is good enough.”

In his game against Claassen, Mackie made a solid birdie but lost the first hole to an eagle from the former SA Stroke Play winner. “It wasn’t the ideal start, but I just focused on the next hole and slowly chipped away at him. I played solid golf and in the end I was able to pull it off,” said the 24-year-old Gauteng North golfer, who won the match one up.

Oosthuizen, too, pulled off the unthinkable when he stopped Russell’s charge, beating the 2010 Princess Grant champion 4 & 3. “It was a tough match but I got some good breaks and the putter behaved well today,” said Oosthuizen, who will face Border’s David McMinn in the top 32 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Charl de Kock claimed the first scalp for Eastern Province with a knock out victory against recent SA Strokeplay runner-up, Tyrone Ryan.

The 23-year-old from Humewood didn’t realise he was up against one of the strongest challengers in the field until they got out on the course, but solid play from the start kept his game on track for a two-up victory over the country’s number six golfer.

“Tyrone started quite badly and I just kept making pars and I was four up through four holes,” said De Kock. “From the fifth he started playing really well until he got unlucky with a bogey at the ninth. I just kept plodding along, making pars and forcing him to make birdies to win a hole. I guess in the end, he just ran out of holes.”

Unheralded Vikesh Singh won the first match for Kwazulu-Natal when he beat Le Riche Ehlers, another favourite for the title. “I was five down after five, but a birdie at the sixth changed the momentum and my mindset; then Le Riche dropped a shot at the ninth and the door was wide open,” said the 27-year-old from Mount Edgecombe, who hauled in birdies at the 10th, 11th, 16th and 17th for his 2 & 1 victory.

And defending champion Ryan Dreyer had an equally hard time getting past Magheta Mazibuko in his first round match. “I came down with a brand new set of Titleist irons and I’ve only had the last couple of days to get used to them,” explained Dreyer. “I played really well over the front nine and was four up, but I lost three holes with loose shots. It was a bit of a battle to get it back.” Mazibuko made a brilliant birdie at the 16th, but Dreyer forced a half at the 17th to win the match 2 & 1.

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