Scottish flair at Vaal de Grace

Haydn Porteous (pictured) found his rhythm, Herman Minnie found control, but only Scotland’s Kris Nicol found the top of the leaderboard as the morning field completed the second round of the Sanlam SA Amateur Qualifier at Vaal de Grace near Parys.

The affable Scot made two eagles in his round of four-under-par 68 to take a two-stroke lead into the clubhouse midway through the 36-hole Qualifier.

Haydn Porteous tucked an eagle and six birdies into his 65 to finish at eight under while Minnie got his putter working for a 65 to finish on seven under.

But it was the man from Fraserburgh who showed his class and the reason why he made the Walker Cup provisional team when he turned his morning tee time into a golden opportunity to stake a claim on the Proudfoot Trophy, awarded to the leading amateur at end of play today.

“I wanted to get as much out of my morning tee time,” explained Nicol. “The greens are very soft due to the flood they had here, so playing in the afternoon is a bit of a challenge due to the traffic. It pretty much went to plan for a while.”

Nicol birdied the first two holes and chipped in from about 20 yards off the left edge at the fifth for his first eagle to turn in a flawless 32. His second came at the 14th, another par five.

“I holed a 60-footer at 14 for eagle, but then the putter went cold on me,” said the 26-year-old. “I had two nice shots into 15, just three-putted from 15-feet; then another three-putt from 60-feet at 16.”

Nicol will now have to play the waiting game until the afternoon field comes in to find out if his lead will stand or if the overnight leader Brandon Stone will leapfrog him to the top.

“I would have liked to finish lower, to get a better draw,” said Nicol.

“But tomorrow the format changes anyway, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. I’ll just have to take it as it comes.”

Minnie surrendered six birdies to six bogeys on day one, but his game came together opportunely in the second round.

Seeding aside, the 22-year-old Pretoria player was delighted with his good turn of fortune.

“Yesterday was very frustrating,” he said. “I wasn’t putting badly, I wasn’t hitting the ball badly either, but for every shot I gained, I lost one. I just had to start off a clean slate this morning.”

Minnie started with a birdie at the first, produced a run of three from the third to the fifth and added two more at seven and nine to turn in 30. He kept the momentum going with birdies at 14 and 17, but dropped his only shot at the 18th.

“Not the way to finish a round,” he said. “I hit a good tee shot but it ended up in the rough down the left side of the fairway. My wedge shot came out so hot and left me with a downhill chip, which I hit too hard. After all that I hit a good putt and had to watch it lip out.

“Anyway, it was still a much better effort and I take a lot of confidence out of this performance into the match play.”

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