SA in great form at Spirit International
It was a long day at the office for the participants in this year’s Spirit International, but the South African quartet showed great courage and determination to finish in a strong position at the 36-hole mark in the United States on Friday.
Organisers of the prestigious biennial event were forced to shorten this year’s championship at Whispering Pines Golf Club to 54 holes following fierce storms that brought more than 160mm rainfall and a 25½-hour interruption to the first round. When play finally got underway late on Thursday, the bulk of the field were asked to put in two day’s work on Friday to leave just the final 18 holes for the weekend.
The South African team completed the first round in 10-under-par 134 to finish seven shots adrift from the United States pacesetters in the Team’s Division.
Louis Taylor and Christiaan Bezuidenhout combined for a 67 to tie for third in the Men’s Division, while Kim Williams and Lara Weinstein posted the same number to finish joint second in the Women’s Division.
In the second trip around the par-72 championship layout near Trinity in Texas, Williams and Weinstein rallied for a second 67. Helped along by an eagle from Weinstein, who holed out from 106 yards at the par-five 17th, the women vaulted to joint first with Malaysia on 10-under-par 134.
Williams, making a record fourth appearance at the event, collected nine birdies over 36 holes to Brooke Henderson from Canada by just one shot in the Women’s Individual Competition.
Meanwhile Taylor got wet and Bezuidenhout nearly got lost in the deep rough at the sixth, but they wiped out the ensuing bogey with a great birdie at the eighth. The ninth and final hole nearly caused the pair more problems as Bezuidenhout had to declare a lost ball, but national coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen saved the day when he found Taylor’s ball with just 20 seconds to spare.
“All Louis could do was hack it out to the fairway, but he rallied with a superb approach and boxed a nervy putt to limit the damage to just bogey,” Van Leeuwen said.
The SA pair signed for a second round 136 that dropped them to joint sixth on eight under in the Men’s Team Competition, where the United States still holds sway on 14-under-par 130.
Taylor will start the final round from a tie for fourth in the Men’s Individual Competition.
At the end of play, the US team led the International Team Division with a score of 23-under-par 265, two shots clear of Malaysia, who started the second round seven shots back of the Americans. But the South African team is still in it, just five shots adrift on 18 under 270.
“The course was definitely tougher in the second round, with the pins tucked in some impossible places, but the team rallied incredibly well,” said Van Leeuwen. “All four players showed amazing fighting spirit to stay in the battle. They are very fired up and as things stand, we still have an excellent chance at a podium finish.”
South Africa tied for 10th in their debut in 2001, and their best finish came in 2005 when team tied for second.
TOP 4 TEAMS LEADERBOARD
265 United States 127-138
267 Malaysia 134-133
269 France 139-130
270 South Africa 134-136