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Phillips seals memorable SA Senior Amateur win

Maritzburg golfer Morgan Phillips claimed a seven-shot victory in the SA Senior Amateur Championship at Heron Banks River and Golf Estate; credit Ernest Blignault.

19 October 2018 – Maritzburg golfer Morgan Phillips marched to a memorable seven-shot victory in the South African Senior Amateur Championship with a masterful display at the Heron Banks River and Golf Estate on Friday.

The 57-year-old was confidence and poise personified as he clocked in with an even-par final round 71 to triumph on three-under 210.

“I have dreamt of winning this championship since I joined the senior ranks, especially after I won the Senior Players in 2015,” said Phillips, only the second player to have won both flagship events after reigning number one Steve Williams.

“I had a top 10 in 2016 and I tied for sixth last year, but I had to put my family first and had to scale back quite a bit on competitive golf over the last 20 months. When I arrived at Heron Banks, I had only played six tournaments this season. I had no expectations and I think that was the key to my success. I went out there, played my game, managed my game well and put together three solid rounds.”

Growing up in the apartheid era, Phillips never had the opportunity to contest the SA Amateur. He was 55 years old when he earned his national colours for the first time, representing South Africa in the inaugural Fellowship Cup against India in Kolkata in 2016.

“And now I am a national champion,” said Phillips. “Senior golf really is a mulligan. I can’t describe the joy and pride I feel right now. This is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life.”

Phillips and Craig Kamps from Bryanston shared the first round lead on one-under, but the KwaZulu-Natal senior was flying solo after a second round 69. He started the final round with a commanding four-shot cushion on three-under, but his lead more than doubled almost immediately when Kamps triple bogeyed the par five opening hole.

After a birdie start, Phillips pencilled in another birdie at the par four sixth and pulled 11 shots clear when Kamps dropped two shots at the par four seventh. The Gauteng golfer rallied with a birdie at eight, but Phillips headed down the back nine with a comfortable 10-shot cushion.

“I made a great up-and-down birdie at one,” Phillips said.

“Instead of laying up with a rescue, I took driver at six, because I had a lot of shots in hand. I hit a little cut over the trees and came up just short of the green. I chipped to three feet and holed the putt.”

He bogeyed 10, but reclaimed the lead at five-under with a birdie at 13.

“I had 143 metres into a crosswind to a back flag at 10,” said Phillips. “I wanted to hit a soft 7-iron in, but the ball took one bounce and shot off the back. I had no green to work with and my chip finished well past the flag. I made two good pars at 11 and 12 and hit a good drive on 13. I hit lob-wedge from 58 metres out to four foot and boxed the putt.”

Kamps mounted a comeback with birdies 11, 12 and 15, but further bogeys at 16 and 18 for a final round 74 relegated the 53-year-old to second on his own on four-over 217.

Phillips didn’t have it all his own way down the stretch, either.

“I just made a good up-and-down at 14 to save par after I pulled my 4-iron, so I feeling confident,” he said. “Then I drove it into the hazard at 15. I took the penalty drop and made a great up-and-down for bogey, but at 16, the same story. Another hazard and another bogey.

“I still had a six-shot lead, though. I made a good par at 17, but I caught the lip of the greenside bunker at 18. I hacked it out on the green and holed the par putt.

Maritzburg golfer Morgan Phillips receives the SA Senior Amateur Championship trophy from SAGA Second Vice-President Martin Saaiman at Heron Banks River and Golf Estate; credit Ernest Blignault.

“At no point in the final round did I assume I would win. You can never do that in golf, no matter how big your lead is. What happened to Craig at the first could have happened to me at any time. I just kept my head down and played shot-for-shot. I think my course management also played a huge part in getting the win. I hit my tee shots and approaches in the right spots and I putted really well.”

The one-two finish meant Phillips moved to third in the Senior Rankings and Kamps vaulted to fourth in the standings.

The pay-off was spots on the Senior Team for the third Fellowship Cup against India at the end of November alongside number one ranked Williams and Francois le Roux, ranked second. Fifth ranked Andre van Dyk was named the non-travelling reserve.

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of GolfRSA.