Large SA contingent take on “The Amateur”

Cameron JohnstonNineteen of South Africa’s leading amateur golfers have entered the 113th Amateur Championship, arguably amateur golfer’s major, which is being played over both Ailsa and Kintyre Courses at the world renowned Turnberry Resort on the west coast of Scotland, commencing on Monday.

Two hundred and eighty-eight players from 24 countries are participating in a 36 hole stroke play qualifying competition. All players will play 18 holes over both the par 70 Ailsa and the par 72 Kintyre courses. On conclusion of the 36 hole qualifying, the leading 64 players and ties play match play, each match over 18 holes, of the Ailsa course only, with the exception of the final, which will be 36 holes. The match play final is scheduled for Saturday (21 June).

Leading the South African contingent, based on the latest World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) is 37 year old Milnerton Golf Club member Cameron Johnston, who is ranked 8th. The in form Western Cape golfer left earlier this week for Turnberry to get in some practice. “Although I play a lot of my golf at Milnerton Golf Club I have not enjoyed much success in competitions played on Links golf courses,” lamented Johnson prior to his departure. “Hopefully by going early it will help to change things,” he said.

But going up early comes at a price. Johnston pointed out that the green fees for his practice round at Aisla Course, which will host the 2009 Open Championship, will be a mere £200 (approximately R3,000) and at the Kintyre course £120 (approximately R1,800). “That is without a caddie,” he laughed despondently.

Johnston has been in good form of late winning the Cape Province Open, played at George Golf Club, and getting as far as the semi finals in the Glacier SA Amateur Match Play at Ronderbosch in March.

Adrian Ford, the 21 year old Durbanville Golf Club and Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation member, is also in the field. He is 29th on the latest WAGR. Ford so nearly levelled the test match for South Africa against France when he took the talented Frenchman, David Antonelli, to the final hole in the final match, played at Chantilly Golf Club north of Paris. The Western Province player then went on to finish 5th in the French International Amateur Stoke Play Championship. If he can take this form through to Turnberry, he should comfortably make it through to the Match Play stages.

19 year old Derik Ferreira, ranked 54th on the latest WAGR, has also entered. The Gauteng North amateur, who plays out of Centurion Country Club, got through to the final 36 holes in the St Andrews Links Trophy played at St Andrews, Scotland over the weekend. Although he did not make his way up the leaderboard, over the final stages, it nonetheless did his confidence a world of good after having failed to make the cut in the previous three competitions he participated in overseas.

The player who has shown he has the ability to produce the goods on the big occasion is 22 year old Bolander Jacques Blaauw, who plays his golf at Paarl Golf Club. The current SA Stroke Play and Glacier SA Amateur Champion, who has been campaigning overseas for over a month now, with varying degrees of success, is the South African player most capable reaching the last stages of this prestigious competition. He will be hoping to the put the performances of the last two stroke play competitions he has played, namely the St Andrews Links Trophy and French International Stroke Play Championship, behind him. In these two competitions he positioned himself nicely on the leader board with solid first rounds only to shoot rounds in the 80s to miss the 36 hole cuts. Blaauw is currently ranked 66th on WAGR.

Two local players in the field to watch will be Matthew Carvell, from Kyalami Country Club in Johannesburg, and Johan de Beer, of Pretoria Country Club. Carvell, 23 years old, has been showing great form for his Southeastern Louisiana University team (in Frisco, Texas). 18 year old de Beer, who finished 5th in the Scottish Open Stroke Play Championship two weekends back, also has the ability to play good Links golf and could be a ‘surprise’ on the leader board, as happened during the Scottish event where he led unexpectedly going into the final 36 holes.

Other South Africans participating are JJ Senekal (Stellenbosch G.C., Boland), Dewald Smit (Schoeman Park G.C., Free State & Northern Cape), Jake Redman (Fancourt, Southern Cape), Christiaan van der Merwe (Victoria C.C., Kwazulu Natal), Justin Turner (Strand G.C., Western Province), Johan Bekker (Benoni C.C., Ekurhuleni), Michael Palmer (Bryanston C.C., Central Gauteng), Charles Durnian (Glendower G.C., Central Gauteng), MJ Daffue (Waterkloof G.C., Gauteng North), Lyle Rowe (Port Elizabeth G.C., Eastern Province), Mark Fensham (Port Elizabeth G.C., Eastern Province), Ryan Clarke (Royal Johannesburg & Kensington G.C., Central Gauteng) and Louis Calitz (Schoeman Park G.C., Free State & Northern Cape).

Last year Drew Weaver (US) beat Tim Stewart (AUS) in the final 2&1, the first American to win since 1979. Weaver is back to defend his title.

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