Proudfoot Trophy cast in Stone at Vaal de Grace
He wavered only briefly as he turned at nine under to take stock of the on course leaderboard. Then Brandon Stone (pictured with Proudfoot Trophy) turned to his caddie, pro golfer Kevin Stone and said: “Come on dad, we’ve got some work to do.”
Three birdies later, the country’s number one amateur opened a yawning two-shot gap on clubhouse leader Kris Nicol of Scotland and signed off on a 68 to claim the prestigious Proudfoot Trophy as the winner of the 36-hole Stroke Play Qualifier.
More importantly, the 17-year-old booked his spot in the match play at the Sanlam SA Amateur at Vaal de Grace on 12-under-par 132.
Nicol, who carded rounds of 66 and 68, finished alone in second on 134 while a 67 lifted SA Stroke Play winner Jared Harvey to third on 135. Haydn Porteous (65) and Aubrey Barnard (67) shared fifth.
Teenager Zander Lombard staked his claim with a 10-shot swing on his opening 74. The 16-year-old’s bogey-free eight-under-par 64 came just three weeks since he was declared fit to play after breaking his left wrist just after Christmas.
Stone picked up his first birdie of the day at the eighth hole and added to his tally with birdies at the first, third and seventh after the turn.
He described his two rounds as his best in a long while.
“The only difference between the first and second rounds was four putts that didn’t fall” he said.
“The swing change I made a few weeks ago has really lifted my game and I’m hitting it as good as I’ve ever had.”
And the new Scotty Cameron putter is also behaving well.
“The putter is working very well, but the greens are soft due to the floods they had here; with all the traffic through the day, they don’t run as smooth in the afternoon, but it’s the same for everyone, so I’ll take four birdies and no drops any day.”
Stone’s expectations for the match play are simple.
“I’m only about 20 percent done, so it’s way too early to talk about winning the SA Amateur,” he said.
“The format changes now and I know as the number one I have a big target on my back and the guys are going to come for me.
“Jared (Harvey) is as hungry as I’ve ever seen him, Ruan (de Smidt) is also in the mix and the Scots will give it everything they’ve got, so nothing is certain yet. All I can do is take things one step at a time.”
But winning the Proudfoot is something he doesn’t mind talking about.
“I’m really proud to know that my name will go on that trophy next to guys like Retief Goosen, Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman…this is a piece of silverware I will always cherish.”
Nicol, a member of the provisional Walker Cup team, said a strong showing at the SA Amateur will go a long way in cementing his spot in the final team.
“The first goal was the make the qualifier,” he said.
“From here on, it’s match by match, hole by hole and you see just how far you can go. Hopefully I can keep this run of form going till the final.”
The Scotsman birdied the first two holes and chipped in from about 20 yards off the left edge at the fifth for his first eagle to turn in a flawless 32. His second came at the 14th, another par five, but his good work was made undone by back-to-back bogeys at the 15th and 16th.
“I had two nice shots into 15, just three-putted from 15-feet; then another three-putt from 60-feet at 16,” said the 26-year-old.
The final cut to 64 players was set an even-par 144. One of the casualties left to fight it out in a play-off for eight spots was 2009 SA Amateur champion, Ryan Dreyer.
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