Lombard vaults early hurdles at Portrush
South Africa’s Zander Lombard reached the quarterfinals of the match play section at the Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush after he survived an intense 19 hole battle against Englishman Haydn McCullen on Friday.
This is the second successive year that Lombard reached the match play stage, however, it marks the first time the 19-year-old Woodhill golfer made it past the top 32.
The country’s number two ranked amateur was the only South African among the 10-man contingent left standing after the weather-interrupted 35-hole Stroke Play Qualifier finally concluded on Thursday.
The Tuks HPC student carded a 69 at Royal Portrush and 71 at Portstewart to tie for eighth on one-under-par 140.
However, the cut to the top 64 players sent the rest of the South Africans packing, including reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion Thriston Lawrence and Prince’s Grant Invitational winner NJ Arnoldi, who finished just one shot outside the mark, set at 145.
Lombard enjoyed a bye in the first round and a back-to-back birdie start set him up for a 5 & 4 second round victory over Scotsman Jack Bush.
He had to draw on all his experience to get past McCullen to reach the quarter-finals, though.
The Englishman took the early lead with back-to-back birdies at the second and third and went 3-up after Lombard three-putted for a bogey at the sixth. The South African retaliated with a pair of birdies at the seventh and eighth, but McCullen took the lead again when Lombard went into the rough at the ninth.
The Englishman conceded the 10th after a lost ball, and the match was back to all square when McCullen missed a six-footer for par at the 12th.
“Zander went 1-up after he knocked in an eight-footer for birdie at the 13th,” said national coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen. “They both parred the 14th and birdied the 15th, but Zander got a tad greedy and ended up in the bush at 16. Haydn also went in the bush, but Zander had some serious whacking to do to get out of there and he was forced to concede the hole.”
At the 17th, Lombard got a lucky bounce over some thick bush, while McCullen duffed his bunker shot and had to pitch from 30 meters out. The Englishman pitched to 30 feet and rammed his putt five feet past the hole. Lombard rolled his 90-footer to two feet, but missed the putt.
“McCullen conceded after missing return putt, so they went down the 18th with Zander leading 1-up,” Van Leeuwen said. “Both players had 60-footers for birdie. Zander lagged his putt about four feet past the hole and Haydn pushed his a couple of inches from the hole.
“Zander missed the par-putt to win the game and it was back down the first for extra time.”
Lombard’s approach in his second spell down the par-four first landed 35 feet short of the hole, while McCullen was about 60 feet out.
“Zander’s birdie effort lipped out, and Haydn lagged his birdie attempt seven feet short,” said Van Leeuwen. “He missed the par-putt, and Zander made his to clinch the victory. The way he was playing, Zander should have been six up through the first nine holes, but that’s match play for you.
“It was a great battle and it is a fantastic achievement for Zander to reach the top eight in a field of this calibre. His quarter-final match against Adam Chapman from England should be another tough one, but I have no doubt that he is mentally ready for the fight.”
STROKE PLAY QUALIFIER – SA RESULTS
140 Zander Lombard 69-71
146 Thriston Lawrence 74-72; NJ Arnoldi 74-72
148 Louis Taylor 76-72
149 Martin Rohwer 77-73
151 Christiaan Bezuidenhout 78-73
153 James du Preez 73-80
155 Teagan Gauche 69-86
160 Jason Smith 82-78
NR Victor Lange 83 NR
In addition to the 10 South Africans competing, the 119th edition of Europe’s most prestigious amateur championship drew 288 competitors from as far afield as South America, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia.
The collated scores from the two rounds decided the top 64 players, who compete in the match play that determines the champion. Severe fog caused several suspensions and lengthy delays to the stroke play qualifier, hence it was only completed on Thursday.
Victory would be a major fillip to any aspiring professional’s career as the winner will gain entry to both next month’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake and the 2015 U.S Open, as well as an expected invitation to The Masters next spring.
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.