Irish delight as Hill climbs to the summit

Ireland’s Joshua Hill led the second round of the South African Stroke Play Championship at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate; credit GolfRSA

14 February 2023 – Ireland’s Joshua Hill continued to build momentum in the South African Stroke Play Championship after his second-round three-under-par 69 on Tuesday took his tournament total to seven-under, a shot clear at the summit of the leaderboard.

“I’m pleased with the way I played these first two rounds,” Hill said of his efforts around at the Lakes Course at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate.

“I played nicely today ,and I hit a lot of greens; made a few putts here and there. Overall, I just played solidly. It’s always nice when you’re in a competition and you’re in contention; trying to play for a trophy rather than playing for places.”

Hill made four birdies and had a lone drop at the 11th hole en route to his 69.

“Oh, that was like six o’clock or around that time in the morning and I just sent one straight into the water,” said Hill of the bogey he made on 11. “It was a bit frustrating because I started on 10 and I’d made par but, thankfully, I was able to bring it back and it was good.”

Hill’s compatriot, Matthew Mcclean, was in scintillating form too as his blemish-free 69 catapulted him to second on the leaderboard and a shot adrift.

Hill hopes to replicate the performances of his first 36 holes if he is to add the South African Stroke Play Championship to his collection of trophies. The reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion was two strokes off the pace coming into the second round and an early tee-off time was all he needed to launch his challenge.

“It was nice to get an early start and get it done early,” said Mcclean after his round, “I hate the wind. It was a bit different from yesterday because I had seven birdies yesterday and today three. I played a bit conservatively today and now I will take the afternoon off and relax – and then go practice. So, it was nice to get it done early.”

Martin Couvra from France will also feel that he is still in with a real chance of unseating Hill at the summit on day three.

Struggling with the winds that this layout is known for, the 19-year-old’s even-par second round was solid enough to see him drop three shots off the lead but with real possibilities on moving day.

Humewood Golf Club’s JP van der Watt, Bryanston’s Pascal Gunther, and Jordan Burnand from Ebotse are the leading South Africans in the field at three-under-par and in a three-way share of the fourth position ahead of round three.

“I feel like I played really solid golf and I want to keep it going for the next two days,” said Van der Watt. “This is a really good golf course; the greens are pristine, so with any mistake here, you can’t blame anybody but yourself. I’ve played quite offensively this week but also very conservative; I haven’t taken too much on. This is the kind of course where staying patient and waiting for your opportunities to come by is key.

“The greens are so good that if you can hit it close enough, you should roll in a few putts. So, the plan for tomorrow will be to get out there and get off to a good start and see if I can roll one or two putts in and then go from there.”

A disappointing back nine – characterised by six bogeys and a solitary birdie – underlined a tough day at the office for overnight leader, Scotland’s Matthew Wilson. After shooting three-over-par on Tuesday, Wilson now finds himself five shots behind the lead on a tournament total of two-under-par.