Internationals give chase at SA Stroke Play

Brandon Stone brought a solid short game to Glendower Golf Club and made it count, firing a near flawless six-under-par 66 on Tuesday to take the early first round lead of the South African Stroke Play Championship.

But between Stone at the top and South Africans Nicolas Sher and Hano van der Walt tied for sixth on two under 71, there are a host of international players giving chase.

Scott Crichton of Scotland and Italy’s Andrea Bolognesi are tied for second on three under with Scotland’s Brian Soutar and Conor O’Neill both carded 70s to tie for fourth.

Although the country’s leading amateur was thrilled with his form on the day, he said his lead will definitely come under pressure.

“Scott is just one of the seven members of the Scottish Elite Squad and Andrea is one of five top Italians playing here this week,” he said. “There is a bunch of top English amateurs here, as well, and when those guys get warmed up, they are going turn up the heat.

“It was very important to me to start well today and deliver a solid round and I must say, I’m pleased with the outcome. But now the pressure is on to maintain this standard.”

Stone opened with four pars before he got the putter going at the par-four fifth.

He added two more at the seventh and ninth to turn in 33 and kept the momentum going, reeling in four birdies from the 12th. His first, and only mistake on day came at the closing hole.

“My tee shot ended up just inside the trees on the right,” he explained. “I tried to hit a little punch shot and it clipped the tree. You know, I think you always have one hole where it doesn’t go to plan and that was it for me. I wasn’t going to try and hit some fancy shot and make a double, so I’ll take the bogey. It was still a great round for me.”

Crichton agreed, saying he caught several glimpses of Stone making birdies.

“I was playing ahead of him and saw him make a couple,” said the 23-year-old from Aberdour near Fife. “He is the country’s number one amateur for a reason, so we always knew he would put up a fine score. But I’m not unhappy with my round.”

Crichton had three birdies offset by two bogeys on the front nine but completed a flawless second loop with a brace of birdies to sign for his 69.

“I played three practice rounds and worked out a game plan for the course, which I think worked well for me today,” he said.

“I had a few wayward tee shots on the front nine, but I played the back nine much better and it showed in my scores. I think it can only improve from here.”

Bolognesi also picked up six birdies, but surrendered three to the challenging par-72 6,442m layout.

“It’s playing very long, but I have to say, this is a great golf course, just fantastic,” he enthused.

“I think it was a good start to the tournament, but just too many mistakes today. To win, I must improve from the tee.”

Leading first round scores:

66 Brandon Stone

69 Scott Crichton (SCO); Andrea Bolognesi (ITA)

70 Conor O’Neill (SCO); Brian Soutar (SCO)

71 Nicolas Sher; Hano van der Walt

72 Francesco Laporta; Daniel Kay (SCO); Eddie Taylor; Johan Theron; Drickus Bruyns; Rowan du Preez; Fraser McKenna (SCO)

73 Anton Steenkamp; Jacques du Villiers; Emanuele Sesia (ITA); Morten Bredahl; Filippo Bergamaschi (ITA); Jacopo Vechhinfossa (ITA); Pedrie Oosthuizen; Nathan Scott

To view the first rounds scores, click here:

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