SA wins sixth African Amateur Team Champs

The South African team put the finishing touches to an impressive week at The Lake Club Benoni to win the African Amateur Golf Teams Championship for the sixth successive time since this prestigious biennial event launched in 2001.

The South African side combined for a final round six-under-par 210 and a 72-hole total of 835, beating Namibia by 57 shots.

Graham van der Merwe led the way with an accomplished four-under-par 68 and he was backed by a 70 from Riekus Nortje and 72s from Daniel Hammond and CJ du Plessis.

Glen de Waal (70), Roux Jeffrey (71) and Andre Huysamen (74) cemented Namibia’s runner-up spot on 892, while 73s from Stefan Andersen and Mathew Omondi and a 75 from Joseph Karanja propelled Kenya to third on 900.

In his earlier rounds of 74-72-72, Van der Merwe battled on the greens, but the 20-year-old finally wore a smile when he broke par. “It was the first round this week with no three-putts on my card and it feels just great to make a worthwhile contribution,” he said.

Van der Merwe dropped a shot on each nine, but his bogeys were offset by seven birdies, three of those coming in his last four holes. “I had 12 putts on the front nine and 13 coming home and that is a vast improvement on the last three days.”

The team’s mainstay in the first two rounds, Nortje looked set to post another low round with three birdies in his first eight holes, but his campaign screeched to a halt after a three-putt bogey at the ninth. “It just went downhill from there,” said Nortje,.

“I birdied 10, double bogeyed the 11th after I got busy with some trees and doubled the 15th when my third shot came out too hot and found the water.

“My card looked like a colouring book. Not a pretty round, not at all.”

But pretty or not, after rounds of 68-65-70-70, Nortje’s 15-under-par 273 was still 10 shots better than his nearest pursuers and earned him the individual honour.

“I have to admit, it’s great to come out on the winning side after a round like today, but really, it was that second round 65 that nailed it for me,” he said.

Hammond, who parred the last two holes, tied Stuart Smith of Botswana (69) and Stefan Andersen (73) for second on five under.

And Du Plessis thought his 72 was a fair reflection of his mental and physical state.

“I’ve been battling flu and I had a bad night, so it was tough for me out there today,” he said. “I got off to a solid start with a birdie at the third and eagle at the fourth, but I battled from there.

“I think the main thing is that, when one of us had a bad day, the rest of the team backed him up. All four of us, at one time or another, contributed to the team’s victory and we are very proud of this achievement.”

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