SA fight back to level scores at Leopard Trophy

South Africa and Scotland are all square after the first round action wrapped up Leopard Creek, but the local favourites will have to lift their game to keep the country’s winning record alive in the annual Leopard Trophy.

The hosts were on the back foot in the two-day Test match after the visitors edged 2½ – 1½ ahead in the morning Foursomes, but victories from debutants Thriston Lawrence, NJ Arnoldi and Philip Kruse in the Singles gave the team a solid boost.

Halves from Zander Lombard, Louis Taylor and Matthew Spacey, who also donned national colours for the first time, ensured that the South Africans have a fighting chance in the final round on Wednesday.

SA national coach, Llewellyn van Leeuwen, was pleased that his players could close the gap and put South Africa on equal footing with the Scottish side.

“Now it’s all going to be about the final day’s play,” said Van Leeuwen. “I think the boys fought valiantly this afternoon. Six of the matches went the full distance and a couple of the Scots missed some short putts at the 18th to give us halves.

“I feel very fortunate to be in a 6-all position and now it will be up to the players to come out strong and secure a victory.”

SA number one, Christiaan Bezuidenhout from Ekurhuleni, went down 2 & 1 to 2013 Scottish Boys U-18 champion Bradley Neil, while Lombard from Gauteng North sank an eight-footer at the 18th to gain a half point against Jamie Savage.

Ekurhuleni’s Arnoldi beat Ewen Ferguson 3 & 2, while Kruse from Gauteng North defeated Ben Kinsley 1-up.

Mpumalanga teenager Thriston Lawrence took control of his game against Daniel Young and was 3-up through six holes. The Craigie Hill golfer won the seventh and ninth holes to chip away at Lawrence’s lead, but the 17-year-old local golfer surged ahead again by taking the 11th and 12th.

The Scotsman won the 13th and 15th, but after halves at the 16th and 17th holes, Lawrence was still one ahead. Young was forced to concede after a poor tee shot at the closing hole. Not sure where his ball landed, Young hit a provisional, but pulled the shot and conceded the game.

The reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion has represented South Africa in a number of international events and said that the two teams are very evenly matched, but that the 6,665 meter Gary Player designed layout at Leopard Creek is the great leveller.

“This is such an incredibly course and it is playing really tough this week,” Lawrence said. “You always have to be accurate around here, but with the rough as high as it is, you really can’t afford to make mistakes off the tee.”

Central Gauteng’s Louis Taylor halved his game against Connor Syme, while new cap Werner van Niekerk from Gauteng North lost 1-down against Scott Gibson. Spacey from Central Gauteng was 2-down with two to play and fought back to halve his game against Graeme Robertson to guarantee the six points for South Africa.

The Leopard Trophy forms part of the Scottish team’s annual eight week winter training programme, supported by Leopard Creek proprietor Johann Rupert and Aberdeen Asset Management.

South Africa claimed the inaugural Test in 2010, and also won in 2011 and 2013.

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