Pride on the line at Leopard Trophy
Top South African amateurs Zander Lombard and Louis Taylor will guide an eight-man national side against a strong line up from the Scottish Golf Union’s Mens National Squad at the fifth annual Leopard Trophy from 18-19 February.
South Africa has dominated the annual two-day Test since the first battle played out at the prestigious Leopard Creek in Mpumalanga in 2010. The local heroes defended the title in 2011 and triumphed again 2013, but was denied a hat-trick in 2012.
Lombard is sure the Scots will be looking to emulate the 2012 team and exact some revenge after a beating from a Junior Protea team at the recent Triangular at Randpark.
The country’s number two, who does duty for a third year running, remembers the defeat all too well.
“We trailed the Scots by just two points going into the final round, but they went four up after the foursomes,” Lombard recalls. “We were 9½-5½ down, but we rallied and won four of our matches. The other two matches with Brandon (Stone) and CJ (du Plessis) went right down the wire. Scott (Cricton) and Fraser (McKenna) won both at the last hole to win the Test 11½ – 9½.”
Lombard and Taylor were a lethal combination in 2013 and delivered the crushing blow give the South African team a 15.5 – 12.5 victory last year.
“It’s a great feeling when a match goes down the wire like that, especially against the Scots, because they are really determined,” he said. “They never give an inch; you really have to be on your game.”
A couple of weeks ago, Scotland’s Boys U-18 Champion Bradley Neil made some serious noise at the South African Stroke Play Championship and was narrowly beaten into a share of second by Pretoria amateur Jason Smith.
Then Neil and his teammates got hammered in the annual Triangular against the South African Golf Association’s Junior Team and the SA Golf Development Board (SAGDB). The SA Junior side won with 17 points, with the Scots finishing with 12.5 points and the SAGDB team on 6.5.
Lombard and Taylor, the only two holdovers from last year’s victorious side, know they team will face a strong attack at Leopard Creek, but the duo has confidence in the new caps that include current number one Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Thriston Lawrence, NJ Arnoldi, Philip Kruse, Matthew Spacey and Werner van Niekerk.
“Triston has had quite a bit of international experience in winning teams at the Africa Zone VI Golf Championship and the All-Africa Junior Golf Championship last year, and he was the top scorer for South Africa at the World Junior Golf World Cup,” said Taylor. “And he showed maturity well above his age when he won the Sanlam SA Amateur title last year.
“NJ was a member of the winning SA at the African Amateur Golf Teams Championship in October, while Christiaan and I took fifth at the Spirit Invitational in November last year. His individual winning record also speaks volumes of his ability to handle pressure.”
Van Niekerk and Lombard were both members of the winning Tuks side at the 600th anniversary of the University of St Andrews tournament.
“Although it will be the first time that Philip, Matthew and Werner wear the national colours, they have earned their place on the team,” Lombard said.
“Their records as individuals and members of their respective Inter-Provincial sides prove they are worthy and we are very confident that they will give 100% to keep South Africa’s winning record going. The Scots will meet a determined side that are ready to battle till the end.”
Neil will fly the Scottish flag with wingmen Scott Gibson, Ewen Ferguson, Graeme Robertson, Connor Syme, Jamie Savage, Daniel Young and Ben Kinsley.
SAGA president Andre Pieterse said that results aside, the Test is aimed at providing the country’s top amateurs with an opportunity to compete against top amateurs in the world.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the end goal, which is to give our players invaluable experience, especially for the rookies,” Pieterse said. “It’s an opportunity to test themselves and to isolate their strengths and weaknesses, to give them solid feedback to work on going forward.”
Scottish Golf Union’s Mens National Squad annually come out to South Africa for their winter training programme, which is sponsored by Johann Rupert and Aberdeen Asset Management.
“It’s great to have the Scots out here every year, competing in the Test, Triangular, our local amateur events and our two flagship tournaments, the SA Stroke Play and Sanlam SA Amateur Championship,” Pieterse said. “We welcome the competition for our local players and the opportunity their tour gives us to test the depth of talent in South Africa.”
The format of the two-day test will be foursomes in the morning, followed by singles in the afternoon on both days.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Ekurhuleni)
Zander Lombard (Woodhill CC; Gauteng North)
Thriston Lawrence (Mpumalanga)
NJ Arnoldi (Ekurhuleni)
Louis Taylor (Central Gauteng)
Philip Kruse (Gauteng North)
Matthew Spacey (Central Gauteng)
Werner van Niekerk (Gauteng North)
Jamie Savage (Cawder)
Brandley Neil (Blairgowrie)
Scott Gibson (Southerness)
Ewen Ferguson (Bearsden)
Graeme Robertson (Glenbervie)
Connor Syme (Dumfries & County)
Daniel Young (Craigie Hill)
Ben Kinsley (St Andrews)