Raised stakes puts SA under pressure in Lusaka
South Africa got their 16th consecutive title hunt underway at the All-Africa Junior Golf Championship but the defending champions came under serious fire from the host nation at Chainama Hills Golf Club in Lusaka on Monday.
Hennie du Plessis fired an opening one-under-par 71, Jovan Rebula contributed a 74 and Kyle McClatchie added a 75 to put the South African team in pole position on four-under-par 220. The fourth member of the side, Altin van der Merwe, closed with a non-counting 78.
However, an announcement from Africa Golf Confederation president Joe Malangi during the opening ceremony on Sunday, set the cat among the pigeons and the SA team are under pressure heading into the second round.
As the champions of Africa’s most prestigious junior team championship, South Africa has enjoyed a berth at the TOYOTA Junior Golf World Cup for years, but after Malangi’s statement that both the champions and runners-up will be competing in Japan this June fuelled a strong charge from the Zambian delegation, led by 17-year-old Zambia Sugar Junior champion, Kelvin Chibuye.
The left-handed Ndola amateur, who is affectionately called Bubba Watson, dropped just one shot on his way to an unchallenged two-under-par 70.
Support from wingmen, Gabriel Chibale (78) and Mufulira Open champion Peter Munyinya (74), pushed the host nation into second in the overall standings.
SA team manager, Kevin Stone, said the side is well aware of Zambia, just two shots off the pace.
“We are certainly going to come under pressure from Zambia and the boys will just have to step it up if they want to keep South Africa’s winning record going,” he said.
“This course has an old-fashioned, traditional design with lots of doglegs and by no means easy.
“Our players did really well off the tees into the narrow fairways and also did well playing into the greens. The pace and grain is tricky and inconsistent, though, and we had a lot of lip-outs and short misses.
“The local players definitely have the benefit of local knowledge, especially on the greens, but the team is very determined to protect their lead.”
Zambia team manager, Christopher Mulenga, was pleased with the team’s performance.
“I am happy that the players have put us in a challenging position, because it is important to show your character in the first round,” Mulenga said.
“I don’t think our players have a great deal of local advantage, because only Peter is from Chainama Hills. Both Kelvin and Gabriel are from Ndola, while our fourth, Charles Shalubobya, plays out of Mazabuka.
“I think the key was their national pride and their hunger to secure a spot for Japan. It was definitely not easy out there, but all four players did us proud and they are quite determined to make it a home victory for us this year.
“We will just have to keep the pressure up over the next three days, but also remember to take matters shot-by-shot, hole-by-hole. There is no point in getting ahead of ourselves.”
Meanwhile Daniel Baguma (75), Byaruhane Andrew (77) and Dennis Otim (79) from Uganda combined for a total of 231 to join Reunion in third spot.
The Reunion team only arrived in Lusaka after nine on Sunday, missing both the opening ceremony and the chance of the practice round. However, Robin Mas set the side on their way with a 73, Robin Baudry added an 80 and Julien Sale, fresh off his victory at the World Amateur Audi Reunion at Bassin Bleu, carded a 78 to put the team in a strong position.
Zimbabwe, looking to eclipse their silver medal from last year’s championship at Le Touessrok in Mauritius will have to step it up though, after slotting into fourth place on 232.
FIRST ROUND TEAM STANDINGS (best three scores to count)
220 South Africa
231 Reunion; Uganda
246 Botswana; Swaziland
FIRST ROUND INDIVIDUAL LEADERBOARD (top 10)
70 Kelvin Chibuye (Zambia)
71 Hennie du Plessis (South Africa)
73 Robin Mas (Reunion)
74 Jovan Rebula (South Africa)
74 Elyes Barhoumi (Tunisia)
74 Peter Munyinya (Zambia)
75 Kyle McClatchie (South Africa)
75 Baguma Daniel (Uganda)
75 Kieran Vincent (Zimbabwe)
76 Daniel Nduva (Kenya)