SA charge to lead at African Amateur

A red-hot Riekus Nortje blazed his way to the top of the individual leaderboard at the sixth African Amateur Golf Teams Championship to give South Africa the edge in today’s opening round at The Lake Club Benoni.

Seemingly oblivious to the north westerly wind that gusted up to 30km per hour and wreaked havoc with the first round leaderboard, the George golfer was the only player in the 44-man field to complete a flawless back nine.

Hunting a sixth consecutive victory for South Africa in the biennial event, Nortje provided the fireworks with a four-under-par 68 to put the home side on the winning track.

With the best three scores to count, CJ du Plessis was pleased to immediately forget about his opening 76. Daniel Hammond added a 70 and Graham van der Merwe contributed a 74 to take the team tally to four-under-par 212 to see the South African side finish 15 shots clear of Namibia on 11-over-par 227 and 19 shots ahead of Swaziland.

“It’s a great start for us,” said 20-year-old Van der Merwe. “Since the tournament started in 2001, other South African teams have it five times before us. The pressure is on for us to make it six for six. And at home, to boot.”

Meanwhile Nortje was amazed that he and Hammond were the only players to break par.

“I didn’t find the wind to be such as issue, but looking at the numbers on the scoreboard it obviously affected the guys,” he said.

The 20-year-old dropped shots at the par-4 second and par-3 fifth, but picked up two birdies to turn in even-par. Hammond from Wanderers dropped twice on each nine but dipped to two under thanks to four birdies and an eagle at the par-5 15th.

“For me the wind had no body, not like we have down at the coast, but I can see how it could be tough on the guys playing here for the first time,” said Nortje.

Kenya’s Stefan Andersen, lying third on the individual leaderboard after an even-par 72, agreed.

“I think the cross winds really through the guys, especially on their approach shots,” said the 2009 Kenya Amateur Stroke Play champion.

“Accuracy is key here, because the fairways are pretty narrow and the greens are small. You can get into trouble off the tee and on your approach and that’s where most of the players became unstuck.”

Players like Daplancke Landorie. The Ivory Coast player had seven bogeys on his outward nine – five of those in a row from the fifth to the ninth – and three more bogeys and a double at the par-4 14th coming home.

“It was just really tough to judge the wind,” said Glen James de Waal from Namibia, who finished fourth with a 75. “Most of the time the wind was across and you had to shape the ball into the green. And if you are on the wrong side of the green, you are looking at a bogey.”

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