Seniors set for SA Stroke Play challenge

A blend of past winners, 2016 champions and a prime piece of real estate promises to serve up an intoxicating cocktail when the Indwe Risk Services South African Senior Stroke Play Championship tees off at Kyalami Country Club from 19-21 October.

Seven-time club champion Jock Wellington will be gunning for a fourth visit to the winner’s circle in the senior circuit’s flagship event at his home course, but the Senior Amateur chairman believes this year’s championship could serve up some surprises.

“I believe the title bid this year is wide open,” Wellington said. “This layout won’t necessarily benefit the local players. It’s the kind of course that will reward the most accurate guy off the tee over the four days of competition and who brings the hottest putter.”

Two-time champion Mellette Hendrikse is a prime contender, but the Gauteng North golfer agrees with Wellington that the championship layout will level the playing field.

“The fairways at Kyalami are heavily tree-lined and they are also tight, so accuracy off the tee is vital to score,” Hendrikse said. “The small greens are incredible tricky and tend to be very fast.

“It’s the kind of course where you have to hit it in the fairway and park your approach on the right side of the flag to have a chance at making red numbers. If you miss-fire, the bogeys will add very quickly.

“That’s why I agree with Jock. The guys from the coast have just a good a chance of winning this year as the players from Gauteng and surrounds. The course will only benefit guys who are hitting it straight and accurate.”

Francois le Roux from Western Province’s and Mzuyanda Zingela from the Eastern Province – close contenders in recent Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Stroke Plays – are among the 121 entrants this year’s championship.

Both players have shown hot form this season and could push all the way to the finish line this year.

Le Roux racked up victories in the Boland Senior and Winelands & African Senior Opens and runner-up finishes in three additional tournaments will see the 56-year-old from De Zalze Golf Club start this year’s championship ranked third in the Senior Rankings.

Zingela, fourth in the current standings, supplemented victories in the Eastern Province Senior Open and Eastern Cape Seniors with a tie for second in the Western Province Senior Open, joint third in the Winelands & African Senior Open and four other top eight finishes.

However, some new champions also announced themselves on the senior circuit this year.

Reigning SA Senior Open champion Steve Williams has split his time on the mid-amateur and senior circuits, but the 55-year-old from Modderfontein made a real impact in the senior ranks this season.

He followed a runner-up finish in the Winelands and Africa Senior Open in March and a top 10 finish in the Vaal Senior Amateur two months later with victory in the Lowveld Senior Open in September. A few weeks later, he lifted the North West Senior Open title to become the first player in nearly two years to shift Hendriks from number one spot in the senior rankings.

“Players like Morgan Phillips or Johan Marais have also come close in the last few years and success this season could see one of them push all the way to the finish line this year,” said Indwe Risk Services CEO Peter Olyott.

“Similarly, the season’s first winner Gerard Blaauw, as well as other 2016 champions Greg Gleeson and William Skinner could all be in the running to double up on trophies at this year.

“The high standard of golf we witnessed at the 28th playing of the Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Amateur Inter-Provincial in April illustrated the hugely competitive nature of South Africa’s senior amateur circuit.

“Through our sponsorship of the Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Amateur Stroke Play Championship we have always presented our seniors with the best possible platform to test themselves and this year’s championship at Kyalami will be yet another perfect stage to showcase the abundance of talent in the over-50 age bracket.

“We look forward to another fantastic mix of drama, roaring shot-making and rousing challenges over the four days of this year’s championship.”

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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