Sanlam SA Amateur – And then there were eight

The unforgiving nature of match play always dishes up a certain amount of surprises and, so far, this year’s Sanlam SA Amateur Championship has enjoyed it’s fair share of the unexpected.

A field of 144 hopeful amateurs began the chase for the country’s most prestigious amateur title on Sunday. As dusk fell on the third round at Country Club Johannesburg, there just eight left standing and stories of lucky bounces, cruel twists of fate and the tales of dreams unfulfilled.

Unheralded George golfer Andrew Light ended Jovan Rebula’s dream run, while Louis Taylor had the unenviable task of knocking out his twin brother Eddie 2&1 to make the final eight and a collusion course will leave only one Scot the opportunity to claim a much-talked-about hat-trick.

Balmore’s Fraser McKenna cruised to 6&5 win over South Africa’s Jason Viljoen, while his compatriot Ewan Scott went the distance and then some to defeat Teagan Moore at the 21st hole. But the Scotsmen will go toe-to-toe in Thursday’s quarter-final, leaving South Africa with a three-in-four chance of home victory for the first time since England’s Laurie Canter won in 2010.

Meanwhile Taylor, who claimed the final qualifier spot before crushing SA Stroke Play winner Haydn Porteous’ dreams of a coveted double, dispatched Ruan Botha 6&4 in the second round before taking on his 23-year-old mirror image for a spot in the top eight.

“I don’t know how to celebrate this, because it was the toughest match of my life,” said Taylor after his 1-up win. “I didn’t enjoy it at all. I wish we could rather just have tossed a coin and be done with it.”

In the tightly-fought contest, the lead changed hands several times, but Louis nailed the 1-up victory when he nearly holed out for an ace at the par-three 17th.

“We saw the ball bounce and kind of disappear and we thought it had dropped, but it stopped just an inch from the hole,” said Eddie. “It was a great contest between us, but Louis did the job. I’ll be back here to support him all the way.”

Taylor will face Callum Mowat, who beat Gregory Royston at the 19th hole, won his second round match-up against Jarred Miltz from Wanderers at the 18th and took care of business against fellow Modderfontein golfer, Dylan Naidoo, with a 2&1 win in round three.

Meanwhile Rebula, trying to emulate his famous uncle Ernie Els’ 1986 win, swept aside Scotland’s Connor O’Neil 2&1 in the first round and knocked out Aubrey Beckley by the same margin in round two.

The 15-year-old’s dream run screeched to a halt, though, when Light, birdied the 17th hole to win the match. Rebula had a chance to win the match when Light – 3-up through 12 holes – lost three holes in a row. The teenager failed to capitalize at the 15th and 16th holes and Light drove home his victory with a short birdie putt at the 17th.

Light will go up against Matthew Spacey from Wanderers, who got past Stephen Allen 3&1, Bevan MacDonald 2&1 and Werner Ferreira 4&3.

In what promises to be the match of the day, 16-year-old Thriston Lawrence will tackle SA number two Zander Lombard for a spot in the semi-finals.

Lawrence, the reigning SA Boys Stroke Play champion, defeated Dainfern’s Shane Martin 5&4 in round one, eliminated Tristen Strydom from Pretoria 3&2 and knocked out England’s Toby Tree at the 20th hole.

Lombard has also been firing with some impressive results this week.

The Pretoria golfer got past Kyle McClatchie in the first round with a 5&4 result, downed Bryce Bibby 6&5 in the second and took out former professional Gerlou Roux 3&2 in the third – this after Roux had beaten Jason Rossitor 7&6 and gone 26 holes to dispatch Scotland’s Graeme Robertson.

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