Loxton counts on Hugo to deliver at SA Stroke Play
Jean Hugo is a celebrated figure in the pro circles, but this week, the 14-time Sunshine Tour winner is happy to roll back the years alongside former professional Leonard Loxton at the South African Stroke Play Championship.
And while the amateur chuckled this morning as he watched Hugo hoist the heavy golf bag that he will be lugging around the par-72 6,442m layout at Glendower Golf Club today, the professional in his brilliant white caddie overall was all business.
“We didn’t have a the kind of first round we hoped for,” said Hugo, referring to Loxton’s opening 76.
“We had rough start and a double at the 14th put us five over through five holes, but we played the next 14 holes in one under, so I’m hopeful. We are hinging all our bets on a great round today to make the cut.”
Loxton put his smile away and also got serious. “It’s been a long time since Jean and I shared a competitive fairway,” he said. “I’ll have to do better today, or it will be a short week for both of us.”
The pair had arrived at Glendower with one aim in mind.
“It’s been Leonard’s lifelong dream to win the SA Amateur Stroke Play or Match Play,” said Hugo. “So, we started with a 76, no big deal. We are still inside the cutline, but we’ll have to pull out the stops today to stay.”
Loxton explained that it was a casual chat over Christmas that led to this unusual collaboration.
“I won the Club Championships at The Els Club Copperleaf and I told Jean that I was going to give the SA Stroke Play another shot this year,” he said.
“He immediately volunteered to caddy for me, but he might have bitten off more than he can chew.”
And Loxton was quick to point out that his caddy was not to blame for his lacklustre opening round.
“I think it’s great to have a caddy on the bag who has won consistently every year since he turned pro,” he said. “His experience, especially here at Glendower, was great; I just couldn’t deliver on his vision at every hole. But he could still help me to be a contender this year.
“I had a lot of rust to shake off on Tuesday, but the longer we played, the better the game. Today he just needs to point me in the right direction.”
Hugo, however, believes the former professional has the goods.
“He just needs a little confidence and some pointers on how to negotiate this track. Leonard left the Tour in 2008 to join Acushnet and I knew we might have a tough time out there because he doesn’t play golf regularly enough. He is our Titleist man on the Tour and we keep him far too busy.
“But he has a lot of talent, so we will just have to pull all resources and launch a stellar come back.
“I think I helped him on Tuesday, even if was just to keep him positive. He is just a little out of touch. Hopefully I can just add to his game with some course management tips today. I know this course well and I know what side of the green to miss, what lines to take. The rest is up to him.”
Loxton figures it will take a miracle to catch first round leader, Brandon Stone, but he is going to give it a real shot.
“Brandon has set the bar really high with his opening 66, but if I can finish under par tomorrow, you never know. I could be in with an outside chance.”
Hugo allowed himself a sentimental moment before the pair set off for the second round.
“It’s 13 years since I won the Stroke Play at Westlake,” he reminisced. “Man, it’s like a time warp, being around all these young amateurs. The talent out here is staggering. It’s almost scary to think some of these guys will be giving me a run for my money in a few years time.”