SA Team holds steady at African Amateur Team Champs

Several players tried to make a hard charge at the South African team’s lead on day three of the African Amateur Golf Teams Championship, but the pursuers must have felt like they were standing still once the dust had settled at The Lake Club Benoni.

Although the wind changed direction, the visitors scored marginally better and the local side kept just a gentle foot on the gas to stay ahead of the opposition, their combined effort of five-under-par 211 sees them well clear of the pack.

South Africa tops the 54-hole leaderboard on 625, 52 shots clear of Namibia, who launched into second place courtesy of even-pars from Roux Jeffrey and Glen de Waal.

The Namibians are two shots ahead of Kenya on 679, with Swaziland in fourth place on 699.

Limpopo’s CJ du Plessis broke into a smile for the first time this week, pleased as punch about his three-under-par 69 that included a second successive bogey-free back nine.

“Man, it felt good to dip below par for the first time this week,” said the lanky Polokwane player,.

“I still dropped twice on the front nine, but I think that loop just doesn’t suit my eye. The back nine definitely suits my style of play and it’s definitely a better performance.”

Riekus Nortje, who had anchored the team with an opening 68 and second round 65, was less impressive and not impressed with a two-under-par 70.

The George golfer had six birdies on his card, but double bogeys at the par-four eighth and 17th chipped away at his advantage and a bogey at the last saw him sign for a two-under-par 70.

“It was a perfect day for scoring but I made some silly mistakes today,” said Nortje. “Misjudged irons, missed putts and got a pretty unlucky lie at the 18th.

“I hit a perfect tee shot down the middle of the fairway and I thought I’d hit a good second, but I caught a bad lie.., in a hole, on a down slope, in the rough. I was pretty much dead from there.

“All in all, not a pretty round of golf. I’d call it a scrappy 70, at best.”

Meanwhile Graham van der Merwe, still battling a balky putter, closed out with an even-par 72 to complete the team’s five under combination.

“I felt brave today and went out there with a whole new set of Titleist irons and wedges, but it looks like I need to trade in my putter,” said the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington golfer.

Van der Merwe said he was surprisingly solid from tee to green, but just couldn’t hole a decent putt.

“I just couldn’t put anything under 12 foot away,” he said. “There was just too many two- and three-putts and that doesn’t win you tournaments.”

After a superb second round 66, Daniel Hammond held his hands up in and pleaded the “fifth” after limping home in 75.

“Let’s just say I was just sight seeing today,” he joked. “It was a terrible round, with terrible shots and terrible putts. It was just one of those days you need to forget as quickly as possible.”

In contrast to Hammond’s mood, Kenya’s Stefan Andersen was upbeat after launching to second on the individual leaderboard, having dropped just a single shot on his way to a four-under-par 68.

“It was a much better round for me,” said 21-year-old from Nairobi.

“But to be honest, I could have done without that three-putt bogey at the eighth. I felt the course played easier today, although the two par-fivees – the third and 15th – was a little tricky into the wind.

“I hope it’s the same wind tomorrow, because it confused Riekus and gave us a chance to close the gap on him. But, of course, no wind will be even better.”

Botswana’s Stuart Smith dropped three shots on the trot from the sixth to the eighth and finished bogey-bogey, but still managed to move into fourth spot with his even-par 72.

“I never would have thought it was good enough, but I’ll take it,” the Gaborone player said. “It definitely could have gone better, but I had two bad drives and a couple of silly iron shots in and I paid the penalty on the greens.”

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