SA team has work to do in Japan
Pretoria golfer Zander Lombard bolstered the South African challenge in the Eisenhower Trophy with a solid first round performance at the biennial World Amateur Team Championship in Japan on Wednesday.
The British Amateur finalist fired a four-under-par 68 at the Iriyama Course to boost the team to a six-way tie on even-par 144. Western Province’s Gerlou Roux returned a 76 and fellow Pretoria golfer, Jason Smith, carded a non-counting 78.
Canada, Sweden and Switzerland top the logjam leaderboard at 10 under 134, while South Africa shares 38th spot with the Republic of Korea, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Slovakia.
Lombard navigated the 6,405 meter Robert Trent Jones II layout in loops of 34.
He reeled in birdies at the first, fifth and ninth, but dropped a shot at the tough par-three seventh to turn in two under. After an unfortunate bogey at the 11th, he rallied with birdies at the 14th, 16th and 18th.
“Zander played almost flawless golf,” said national coach, Llewellyn van Leeuwen.
“He caught a bad break at the par-five 11th with an almost unplayable lie in the green side bunker and a likely birdie turned into bogey.”
Reigning SA Stroke Play champion Smith registered birdies at the par-five fifth and par-four 13th to offset four bogeys and two double bogeys, while Roux handed in a card devoid of birdies after a frustrating day with a cold putter.
“Gerlou was very solid from tee to green, but he just couldn’t get the putter as hot as usual,” the TuksGolf Club and Academy head coach and technical director said.
“Jason’s long, accurate driving could lead to some really low scores this week and I believe he will still play a major role still this week.”
Lombard was understandably delighted to wipe out a disappointing four over 75 start in his WATC debut in Turkey two years ago.
“It was just a solid round, with no heroics,” said the South African number two. “Fairways, greens and I made some putts. Today was my day, but tomorrow Gerlou or Jason could leading the way.
“Things change very quickly in this format and we have the game to produce some fine golf. Our team spirit is great and we definitely believe we are still in with a shot.”
Thirty-seven teams broke par in the first round and 65 sub-par scores counted, breaking the record of 42 in 2004.
The South Africans will play the second round at the par-71, 6,406 meter Oshitate Course on Thursday.
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The 26th World Amateur Team Championship is a biennial international amateur competition conducted by the International Golf Federation (IGF), which comprises 137 national governing bodies in 131 countries.
In each round, the total of the two lowest scores from each team constitutes the team score for the round. The four-day (72-hole) total is the team’s score for the championship.
The competition rotates among three geographic zones: Asia-Pacific, Americas and Europe-Africa.
The IGF is the international federation for golf for the International Olympic Committee and will conduct the Olympic golf competition in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.