Scots draw first blood at Leopard Trophy
The South Africans are down a point in the first round of the annual Leopard Trophy after their Scottish opponents mounted a spirited comeback over the back nine at Leopard Creek in the Foursomes matches this morning.
As the mercury reached 30 degrees Celsius, the Scots turned up the heat and edged 2½ – 1½ ahead of the hosts and defending champions ahead of the afternoon Singles.
The South Africans had a solid start but couldn’t carry the momentum to the finish line.
SA number two and three, Zander Lombard and Thriston Lawrence, halved their game against Bradley Neil and Daniel Young, while numbers one and four, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and NJ Arnoldi, claimed a 2 & 1 victory over Ewen Ferguson and Jamie Savage.
Then Connor Syme and Ben Kingsley levelled the playing field when they took advantage of mistakes by Louis Taylor and Matthew Spacey at the last two holes, and overturned the South Africans’ lead to win 1-up.
In the final game, Graeme Robertson and Scott Gibson defeated debutants Philip Kruse and Werner van Niekerk 2 & 1, putting the Scots in the driver’s seat.
Scottish Golf Union national coach Ian Rae was pleased with his squads’ performance and especially impressed by the fighting spirit from the younger players.
“It was a really good performance all round from the team, considering we were struggling after nine in all the matches,” said Rae. “The guys won quite a lot of holes from 10 through 13 and Connor and Ben had a great finish, winning the last two holes to win the game for us.
“It was certainly a good start, but we still have quite a ways to go.”
Like South Africa, the Scottish are also fielding six debutants and Rae’s strategy for the singles was to mix up the order.
“We were not too sure how the youngsters would handle the hot weather and this tough layout at Leopard Creek, so we’ve put some more experienced players at the start and end of the line-up,” Rae said. “But the youngsters have been playing exceptionally well during the trip out here and came through fine in the Foursomes, so I don’t think it really matters where we put them.”
South African national coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen felt confident that his charges would mount a comeback in the singles.
“The Foursomes games were all very tight and I thought Zander and Thriston got a little unlucky at the 12th,” van Leeuwen said. “They had a three-putt from 10 feet, while the Scots made a great up-and-down that swung the momentum their way and the game ended in a draw.
“NJ and Chris had a very indifferent start, but they finished strong to win their game. Louis and Matthew were 1-up with two to play, but the Scots hit a really long tee shot at the 18th, which forced Louis and Matthew to go for the green in two. It was a shot they probably would not have gone for under other circumstances. Unfortunately that turned into a loss for us.
“I reminded the guys that we were behind after the morning foursomes last year, too. You don’t win or lose the Test on the first morning.”
This is the fifth annual examination between South Africa’s leading amateurs and a Scottish side comprising players of the Scottish Golf Union’s Mens National and Transitional Squads. South Africa leads the stakes with victories in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
The Leopard Trophy forms part of the Scottish team’s annual eight week winter training programme, supported by Leopard Creek proprietor Johann Rupert and Aberdeen Asset Management.
SINGLES DRAW (SA vs SCOTLAND):
Christ Bezuidenhout vs Bradley Neil
Zander Lombard vs Jamie Savage
Thriston Lawrence vs Daniel Young
NJ Arnoldi vs Ewen Ferguson
Louis Taylor vs Connor Syme
Philip Kruse vs Ben Kingsley
Werner van Niekerk vs Scott Gibson
Matthew Spacey vs Graeme Robertson