Porteous hits the front at Sanlam SA Amateur Qualifier

Haydn Porteous fired an opening six-under-par 66 at Country Club Johannesburg’s Rocklands course to set the early target today’s first round of a 36-hole Stroke Play qualifier for the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship.

On a day when gentle weather conditions should suggest otherwise, the Modderfontein standout was one of only eight players in the morning field to complete the first round under par.

The country’s number one amateur finished one stroke clear of England’s Toby Tree and Andrew Light from Kingswood Golf Estate in George.

Fife’s Scott Crichton closed with a 69, while Craig Lindsay-Smith of Bryanston Country Club finished at two under par and Scotland’s Ewan Scott, Aubrey Beckley from Potchefstroom and the host venue’s Eddie Taylor slipped in with 71’s.

Porteous got off to a sizzling start with birdies at the first, third, fourth and ninth to turn in four under, however, a bad decision at the par-four 10th hole cut his advantage back to two.

“This course is brutal because you really pay for bad calls and I made a stupid decision to go with driver at 10,” Porteous said. “I hit my tee shot right, into the deep stuff and I had a job to hack it out from there and get it on the green. I three-putted from 60 feet, but it was bad course management.”

Coming home, Porteous reeled in another three birdies from the 12th and set up his eighth birdie with a monstrous drive at the par-18th.

“I hit that tee shot really, really good,” he said. “I was having some issues with my swing for a couple of months until Llewellyn (van Leeuwen) sorted it out for me at the Ten Nations Cup. Since then it’s been constantly improving. And when you swing it well, your confidence grows.”

Just nine days ago, Porteous successfully defended his SA Stroke Play title in George and the elusive double could be on the cards if the 18-year-old continues to swing it this well.

But Porteous said his approach this year is to take it one shot at a time.

“I put way too much pressure on myself last year to win the double,” he said. “I focussed on the title instead of on the tournament. Although I really want to win the double, I am keeping things in the moment this year.”

Worthing’s Tree returned to South Africa in January and, like last year, has been rooming with Porteous. “I stayed with Haydn last year, too, and we travel and practice together,” Tree explained. “We are great mates but highly competitive and we’re hunting a one-two finish in the qualifier, so we won’t have to play each other before the final.”

Tree birdied four of the last six holes for his 67. The Gauteng North Open Stroke Play champion said he was watching Porteous playing in front of him and realised it was time to knuckle down when the South African went on a birdie run.

“I saw Haydn hit back with some birdies after that double, so I tried to keep pace with him and I knew I had to make that last birdie to stay in touch.”

Light enjoyed a bogey-free front nine, but the 21-year-old gave back two shots down the home stretch.

“You have to hit it straight around here, because this course is long and tight,” he said. “I was very good off the tee over the first nine, and got my irons and wedges to within a foot but I think I let my focus drop a little with the bogeys at six and eight.

“It felt good to birdie the ninth, though, just to get myself back to five under. I’ve left myself in a good position for the second round.”

Leading scores:

66 Haydn Porteous

67 Toby Tree ENG; Andrew Light

69 Scott Crichton SCO

70 Craig Lindsay-Smith

71 Aubrey Beckley; Ewan Scott SCO; Eddie Taylor

72 Dino de Abreu; Teagan Moore; Gregory Royston; Barry Crouse; Keegan de Lange

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