SA trio eyes Eisenhower Trophy glory

Brandon Stone, Haydn Porteous and Zander Lombard are geared up to launch their bid to become the first South African team to lift the prestigious Eisenhower Trophy since the World Amateur Team Championship launched in 1958.

Moreover, the country’s leading three amateurs will carry some red-hot form into the 2012 edition of the world’s most prestigious biennial team competition, which tees off at the Antalya Club in Turkey from 4-7 October.

Stone, the leading South African amateur golfer in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), spearheads the three-man challenge.

The 19-year-old Pretoria golfer arrived in Turkey on the back of a winning debut for the University of Texas, where he lifted the individual trophy in the Carpet Capital Collegiate in Georgia.

Meanwhile Porteous and Lombard prepared for the challenge at the recent South African Inter-Provincial, sponsored by Tempest Car Hire. Porteous, ranked first and Lombard, ranked third on the South African Golf Association (SAGA) Rankings, played at number one for Central Gauteng and Gauteng North respectively.

However, with a record 72 countries competing for this year’s glory at the par-72 Cornelia and par-71 Antalya Golf Courses, the SA trio knows they face a daunting task.

“We know it’s going to be tough going up against the best amateur players in the world, but we are definitely ready for the challenge ahead,” said Stone, who took up a golf scholarship at the University of Texas in August.

“To represent South Africa at the Eisenhower is something all three of us have strived towards for a long time and we’ll give it the best we’ve got to try and bring the trophy home.”

Porteous agreed.

“It’s a 72-hole stroke-play tournament and each nation has a team of three players and,” the 18-year-old reigning SA Stroke Play champion explained.

“Only the two lowest scores will count toward the team total in each of the four rounds, so even if one of us has a tough spell, the other two will have his back. We are all looking forward to the challenge and we are rearing to get going.”

The South African trio enjoyed the chance to play a friendly warm-up match against the French team at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Belek on Friday.

“The six players had a great time going head-to-head and we were treated like royalty by the Montgomerie staff,” said SAGA president Andre Pieterse. “Even though it was a friendly match I think the French were quite pleased to beat us by two shots.

“Brandon shot 68, Zander carded a 72 and Haydn shot a 76, but he was still fiddling with a couple things in his swing. I am satisfied that the boys gave a good account of themselves and used the practice round to iron out any last minute kinks.

“It has been quite hot and humid here. The conditions are very similar to a Durban summer. It has taken a little getting use to, but the guys are feeling quite comfortable now. They’ve acclimatised well and they are ready for the action, starting with the official practice round on Sunday.”

South Africa’s best previous performance in the World Amateur Team Championship was a runner-up finish at Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina in 1980. Lombard thinks the youthful side has a fair chance at making history.

“We are a pretty young side but I think our chances are as good as any other teams,” the 17-year-old said. “We are certainly excited and eager and all three of us have a lot of respect for each other. South Africa has never won the Eisenhower, so we will try to change that and make some history this year.”

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