SA’s top trio to debut at WATC in Turkey

South Africa’s leading amateur golfers, Brandon Stone, Haydn Porteous and Zander Lombard, will make their debut in the Eisenhower Trophy at the biennial World Amateur Team Championships in Turkey from 4 to 7 October 2012.

Stone, who is ranked first in South Africa and 20th in the world amateur golf rankings, has posted top 10 finishes in all his starts this year, including victories at the Prince’s Grant Invitational, KwaZulu-Natal Open and Cape Province Open. In April, he narrowly lost the Sanlam South African Match Play Championship title to Scotland’s Brian Soutar in March.

“I’m absolutely delighted to have made the South African team,” said the 19-year-old Els Club golfer from Wentworth in the United Kingdom, where he has been spending time with the designer of his home course, Ernie Els. Stone is currently training for the US Amateur Open coming up in August before he takes up a golf scholarship at the University of Texas.

“It’s an incredible honour to represent our country at the Eisenhower Trophy, because the tournament draws the top golfers from around 70 teams around the world. It’s a prestigious tournament and the chance to fly the flag for our country against the best amateurs in the game.”

South Africa has never won the Eisenhower Trophy and their best ever performance was a runner-up finish at Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina in 1980. Stone thinks the youthful side had a good chance for victory at the Nick Faldo Championship Course at the Gloria Golf Club in Antalya.

“We are a pretty young side but I think our ages will be our advantage,” said Stone. “We are excited and eager and our combined experience will make us worthy adversaries at the Eisenhower. We have a lot of respect for each other, we are all at the top of our games and I think we will carry the South African flag with pride.”

Porteous, ranked second in South Africa and 35th in the world rankings, has only finished outside the top 10 twice in 11 starts this year.

In March, he held off a strong international field to win the South African Stroke Play Championship and won the Boland Open and KwaZulu-Natal Match Play. More recently, he tied for second at the Carrick Neill Scottish Stroke Play Championship and claimed a top 20 finish against another stellar international line-up at the St Andrews Links Trophy.

The 17-year-old Modderfontein golfer said making the team was a dream come true.

“There are a few things you play for as an amateur,” he said. “Winning your national Stroke Play and Match Play Championships and making the team for the World Amateur Team Championships are about as good as it gets. I’m absolutely thrilled to be in the team.

“I think we have a very strong team, because we all bring different qualities to the side. Brandon and I know each other very well and Zander has really come through the ranks this year. His inclusion will add yet another dimension to our team.”

Although third-ranked Lombard from Woodhill has not played at national level as long as his team mates, he underlined his growing stature with eight top 10 finishes this season, including victories at the Northern Amateur Stroke Play and North West Open, a tie for second at the Gauteng North Open and third at the Free State & Northern Cape Open. He also represented South Africa the World Junior Golf Team Championships in Japan in June.

“It has been a great honour for me to be selected to participate in this prestige event; a big dream came true,” said the 17-year-old. “So many great players have participated in this event in the past and I’m glad that I have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.

“I have worked very hard and made a lot of sacrifices to reach this milestone in my golfing career. We are a great team and are going to give it our very best to do South-Africa proud.”

South African Golf Association president Colin Burger said the SAGA is confident that Stone, Porteous and Lombard are the strongest team to represent South Africa. “Brandon, Haydn and Zander are our highest ranked players,” said Burger. “They have all had the experience of competing abroad against strong international players and I think they are definitely up to the challenge.”

And Dylan Frittelli, who was the country’s top ranked golfer until he joined the paid ranks in June, has also endorsed the selection, saying that the SAGA has picked the best possible team.

“They are three very strong, very talented players,” said Frittelli, who twice represented South Africa at the Eisenhower Trophy. “They will definitely be able to compete well under the pressure. I think this combination has every chance of winning South Africa’s first Eisenhower Trophy.”

The SAGA’s senior vice president, Andre Pieterse, will accompany the team as manager, while number four ranked CJ du Plessis from Limpopo is the team’s non-travelling reserve.

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