SA players expect full Scottish assault at Sanlam SA Amateur

A seven-man delegation from the Scottish Golf Union’s National Squad will arrive in Cape Town today and their goal is simple: to deny South Africa’s leading amateurs a home title for a third year running when the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship tees off at Mowbray Golf Club from 26 February to 2 March 2012.

Not since Ryan Dreyer beat Adrian Ford in the 36-hole final at Benoni Country Club in 2009 has a local golfer lifted the country’s most prestigious amateur title.

Two years ago, Englishman Laurie Canter secured the coveted silverware with a 6 & 5 victory over Allen Versfeld at East London Golf Club, and last year the final of the country’s oldest amateur tournament was contested between two Scotsmen.

Paul Shields, who lost the spoils in a 5 & 4 defeat to Michael Stewart at Vaal de Grace in 2011, heads the strong line-up of Scotland’s top amateurs including in-form Scott Crichton, James White, Fraser McKenna, Brian Soutar, Daniel Kay and Connor O’Neil.

The local favourites say they are expecting a strong Scottish onslaught.

“The team has been here since January for their winter training camp and they have shown over the last four weeks that they cannot be ignored,” said South Africa’s number one Brandon Stone.

“They are all very tough opponents, but Scott Crichton could be the guy to beat. He finished sixth at the SA Stroke Play and he had an unbeaten four-match record in the Test at Leopard Creek. I think his form has been building ever since they arrived in South Africa at the end of January and he will be peaking at the right time.”

Recent SA Stroke Play champion Haydn Porteous agreed, but warned that Shields couldn’t be discounted.

“Paul will definitely try to go the distance this year. He might not have had a great SA Stroke Play and he went down with a stomach bug during the Test, but you can’t ignore him. He showed last year what a fighter he is. In match play, anything can happen.”

Shields warned that winning the amateur circuit’s flagship event is high on the team’s list of priorities.

“As one of the oldest amateur tournaments in the world, the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship has a lot of tradition and prestige,” he said.

“It’s a tournament that demands a lot of respect and we would all like to put our name on the trophy. When Michael won the title last year, he gained some very important amateur world ranking points at the start of the season and that gave his ranking a huge boost. He also qualified to play in the South African Open Championship with his victory and that, too, is massive. Having exemption into a European Tour co-sanctioned tournament is a huge incentive for any amateur thinking about turning pro.

“This tournament is just a step below our own Scottish Amateur in terms of importance and all of us are going to take a big crack at winning the title.”

But the Scottish delegation is not the only concern for South Africa’s two leading amateurs.

No less than 10 top English golfers will also fight to win the Proudfoot Trophy in the 36-hole qualifier and book their spot in the 110th Sanlam SA Amateur.

Porteous, who is aiming to become only the seventh player to win the South African Stroke Play and Match Play titles in the same calendar year, said he would back Worthing’s Toby Tree to go far in the tournament.

“He is one of England’s best prospects for the professional game,” said the 17-year-old. “Since he arrived in the country, he won the Gauteng North Stroke Play, had a top-15 finish at the SA Stroke Play and we have been practicing like demons for the Amateur. I think he is going to be hard to stop.”

Sanlam Group Marketing Sponsorship manager, Gary van Loggerenberg said that the large international presence this year underlines the stature of the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship.

“Our aim since we took up the SA Amateur sponsorship has always been to create an international platform of competition for our top local amateurs,” he said.

“Each year the tournament draws more top international players and the pedigree of foreigners that will be competing this year certainly underlines the stature and importance the Sanlam SA Amateur has achieved on the global golfing calendar.”

The Sanlam SA Amateur tees off on Sunday, 26 February with the 36-hole qualifier. The top 64 players will qualify to contest the Match Play starting on 28 February.

Click here to view the first round tee times

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