Local challengers bidding for home glory at SA Amateur Stroke Play

South Africa’s top amateurs are set to face some strong international opposition in this year’s South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship, which tees off at Port Elizabeth Golf Club from 3-6 February.

The country’s number one ranked Tristen Strydom and defending champion Jason Smith will spearhead the local challenge against 31 players from Ireland, Scotland, France, England, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

The last international winner of the championship was Englishman Gary Wolstenholme, who triumphed at George Golf Club in 2002. Smith believes the large international delegation will attempt to change the course of history.

“The SA Stroke Play is one of the two most prestigious tournaments on the South African amateur circuit, so of course we want to keep the trophy at home, but I think the foreigners are going to throw down the gauntlet this year,” the 20-year-old Irene golfer said.

Smith held off 2014 British Amateur champion Bradley Neil from Scotland, 2013 North of Ireland Stroke Play champion Dermot McElroy and local favourite Stefan Cronje at Benoni Country Club to claim a one stroke victory at Benoni Country Club last year.

The TuksSport Golf Academy player is quietly confident following a tie for fourth in the Eastern Province / Border Stroke Championship on Sunday.

“The Scots are always dangerous, but judging by the way the way the Irish were gunning on the weekend, they could also pose a strong challenge,” Smith said.

“We don’t know much about the French, but you can never discount them. I think the foreign players are really encouraged by the fact that we haven’t had a foreign winner in 12 years and I believe this week is going to be a real humdinger.”

Strydom will also aim to add his name to the prestigious winner’s list.

The 17-year-old Ekurhuleni golfer, who rose to the number one spot following a tie for sixth on Sunday, also believes the foreign contingent will try to thwart the local bid for glory, but the South Africans shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about the foreigners.

“We’ve become used to a large group of international players every year, because the Europeans come out to South Africa to prepare for the start of their season,” he said.

“The SA Amateur Stroke Play is a very prestigious title and it carries a lot of world ranking points, so it’s a very attractive tournament to win.

“I don’t think the international competition scares us, though; I believe it just fires us up even more. At the end of the day, you can’t control what those guys are going to shoot out there. The only thing you can control is what you are doing, so there is no point in worrying about them.”

The South African line-up will be further strengthened by Smith and Strydom’s team mates for the Leopard Trophy at Leopard Creek against Scotland later this month.

The rest of the team include Gerlou Roux, Hendrikus Stoop, Matthew Spacey, Cronje, Teaghan Gauche and top junior Paul Boshoff, respectively ranked second, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth on the current South African Golf Association’s (SAGA) rankings.

At 50 years old, Mzuynda Zingela from Humewood is the oldest participant this year.

The seasoned campaigner will lead the Eastern Province challenge alongside team mates Andile Adam, Fezekile Kana and Sieg Human, who celebrated B-Section promotion in the SA Premier Inter-Provincial at Westlake Golf Club in September last year.

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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