SA squad look to impress in PE

Four of South Africa’s top ranked amateurs will look to impress in this week’s South African Stroke Play Championship at Port Elizabeth Golf Club ahead of their debut in the Leopard Trophy later this month.

The South African Golf Association (SAGA) selected the country’s number one ranked Tristen Strydom, Hendrikus Stoop, Teaghan Gauche and Paul Boshoff to the eight-man team that will battle a top Scottish side from 18-19 February.

The new caps will join reigning SA Stroke Play champion Jason Smith, number two ranked Gerlou Roux, as well as Matthew Spacey and Stefan Cronje in the two-day Test at the magnificent Leopard Creek near the Kruger National Park.

South Africa scored a convincing 21-7 victory in the inaugural Test in 2010 and won 18-12 in 2011, but the Scots denied the local heroes a hat-trick when they clinched the 2012 edition by two points.

The local team staved off a spirited final round attack from the Scots in 2013 to win 15.5 – 12.5, but the visitors exacted their revenge with a 14-10 victory last year.

Spacey is the only member of the 2014 team returning for duty.

Smith, Roux and Cronje celebrated their national debut as members of the victorious team that chased down South Africa’s 19th consecutive victory in the Africa Zone VI Golf Tournament in April last year. Smith was a member of a six-man SA squad that travelled to Scotland last June and faced the Scots in a two-day Test at Western Gailes Golf Club and represented South Africa at the World Amateur Golf Championship in Japan with Roux.

Stoop broke into the winner’s circle twice last year, while Gauche steadily climbed the rankings after a lengthy injury lay-off.

Strydom won five times in 2014 and the 17-year-old Ekurhuleni junior vaulted to the top spot in the rankings after a tie for sixth in the Eastern Province / Border Stroke Play Championship on Sunday.

Reigning Nomads SA Boys U-19 Match Play champion Boshoff rose to ninth in the Open Amateur standings with a number of top 10 finishes.

The Scots are returning with Scott Gibson, Connor Syme, Daniel Young, Ewen Ferguson and Ben Kinsley from the 2014 team, while the new caps are Craig Ross, Greig Marchbank and Calum Fyfe.

SAGA president Gerhard Conradie believes the mixture of youth and experience should serve the South African team well in the sixth edition of the Leopard Trophy.

“All our players have unique skills, which bodes well for the format of the tournament,” he said.

“It’s fantastic to have such diversity to up against the top-ranked Scottish players.

“The older players bring a lot of experience to the team. Tristen and Paul are still quite young, their individual records last year was impressive and, as the number one and two for Ekurhuleni, they were a lethal combination at the premier SA Inter-Provincial, the SA U-23 and U-19 Inter-Provincials.

“Jason, Paul and Tristen are long drivers, Hendrikus, Teaghan and Stefan are great ball strikers and Gerlou and Paul excel in the wind. We also have a couple of great strategists on the team.

“We are very grateful to host a top squad from Scotland, because it is a fantastic opportunity for our leading golfers to test themselves against some of the best amateurs in the world.”

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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