Nethunswi eyes Sanlam SA Amateur success

Soweto’s Musiwalo Nethunswi wants to relive the magical moments of his first victory a week ago when he tees off in the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship on Sunday.

The Pimville golfer will compete in the 144-man field loaded with top local and international golfers for the country’s most prestigious amateur title at Mowbray Golf Club from 26 February to 2 March.

Just a week ago, Nuthenswi won the Free State and Northern Cape Open at Harrismith Golf Club in a tense final round. The 22-year-old, who closed with back-to-back birdies to claim the title with a four-day total of 10-under-par 278, said winning was a life changing experience.

“It has taken me a long time to win my first trophy, but I never stopped trying and the win made me realise that I have not been wasting my time,” he said. “You always think you can compete against the best but it is only when you win, that you truly believe you can compete.”

Having tasted victory, Nethunswi is now targeting the country’s oldest amateur tournament.

“There are a lot of strong challengers this week, but maybe I’m the dark horse,” he joked.

“Winning the Sanlam South African Amateur title is the crowning glory for any South African amateur golfer. I’ve always wanted to win the title, but this year I believe I can win.”

Lofty ambitions, perhaps, but given his recent good run of form, there is no denying that Nethunswi is fast emerging as one of amateur golf’s hottest properties.

During the SA Stroke Play Championship three weeks ago, the South African Golf Development Board graduate started the final round just two off the pace after putting together three splendid rounds. A bumpy start at Glendower Golf Club left him playing catch up for the rest of the round, but the Gary Player School of Champions golfer still finished with a credible tie for 11th in a line-up that included the top amateurs from Scotland, England, France and Italy.

Just days after hoisting his first trophy in the Free State, Nethunswi and fellow Central Gauteng amateur, Sipho Bujela, scored four-and-a-half points in their debut for the SAGDB in the annual Triangular, at Randpark Club, against a Scottish Golf Union Men’s Squad and a seven-man SAGA Junior team.

“I think my game went into a higher gear since I teed it up for Central at the SA Inter-Provincial and we won,” he said. “Since then I’ve been playing well, but I’ve also become more consistent and that has made the difference in my results.”

The valiant amateur knows the task ahead will be tough, especially with the presence of the country’s leading amateur, Brandon Stone, recent Stroke Play champion Haydn Porteous, as well as Gert Myburgh and Zander Lombard, who stayed hot on his heels during the final round in Harrismith.

“I’m not kidding myself; it’s going to be very tough,” he said.

“Brandon and Haydn are hungry to win this title, Gert is playing very well and Zander is always a threat. And don’t forget about the Scottish squad and a bunch of top English amateurs to contend with, as well.”

Apart from the array of strong local and international amateurs, Nethunswi will also have to tackle the tough layout at Mowbray.

“The greens are quite firm and fast,” Nethunswi said after his practice round on Saturday. “The weather was pretty mild, though. If the wind starts blowing, it’s going to turn into a good test of golf.”

The Sanlam SA Amateur tees off on Sunday, 26 February with the 36-hole qualifier. The top 64 players will qualify to contest the Match Play starting on 28 February.

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