Seven amateurs in SA Open starting line-up

Laurie Canter (England) current SA Amateur Champion tees up with Richie Ramsay and Retief Goosen on ThursdaySeven amateur golfers are in the field of one hundred and fifty six players who tee up in the South African Open Championship on Thursday at Durban Country Club.

Five amateurs gain exemption into the Championship, they include Laurie Canter, the current Glacier South African Amateur Champion, who has come out from England to participate. He will be joined by Dean O’Riley, JG Claassen, Ryan Dreyer and Dylan Frittelli. In addition two players, namely Riekus Nortje and Coenie Bester, qualified in Tuesday’s eighteen hole qualifying tournament played in Durban.

The seventy two hole stroke play South African Open Championship, which is sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour, European Tour and South African Golf Association, is celebrating its centenary, the hundredth staging of the prestigious golf event.

The Championship was first staged in 1903 at Port Elizabeth Golf Club.

A world class field has been assembled, most of whom are professional golfers, who will be playing for €1,000,000 in prize money. Players include Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Louis Oosthuizen and, hoping to win his third South African Open Championship at Durban Country Club, Tim Clark. Defending champion Richie Ramsay, of Scotland, is also in the field.

One has to look back to 1959 to see the last time an amateur golfer won this champioship. It was the evergreen Denis Hutchinson. He beat Gary Player by one shot over the Royal Johannesburg Golf Club layout.

Twenty year old Laurie Canter, who plays his golf at the Saltford Golf Club, between Bristol and Bath in Somerset, England, is the player whose pedigree points to him being the most likely amateur golfer who could be near the top of the leader board come Sunday. Not only did the Englishman win the double, being the 36 hole qualifying round and the match play, at the Glacier SA Amateur Championship in East London in March this year, but he also successfully qualified for the Open Championship played at St Andrews. Although he did not make the cut, he gained valuable experience. He also represented England in the European Championships in Sweden.

Canter will start the first round at 07h30, from the tenth tee, in the public eye on Thursday. As the current SA Amateur Champion he tees off in the same three ball as the defending champion and one of the pre tournament favourites, Retief Goosen.

Dean O'Riley, with the SA Amateur Stroke Play Championship trophyDean O’Riley, of Ebotse Golf and Country Estate in Benoni, is the top ranked amateur participating according to the latest South African Golf Association Player Rankings. Ranked third, the twenty one year old South African Amateur Stroke Play champion will be looking to produce a good performance, his last as an amateur golfer. He has successfully qualified to participate on the Sunshine Tour in 2011.

Perhaps the most exciting amateur prospect for sometime is JG Claassen. The nineteen year old Orkney Golf Club member had a stellar 2009 winning ten tournaments. The North West Province golfer made the cut in last year’s South African Open Championship but finished sixty eighth. He will be looking to improve on this performance. However this year his performances appear to have gone off the boil results wise. His only tournament victory was in the North West Province Open. Like O’Riley he will be turning professional next year and a good showing in Durban will set him up nicely for the start of his professional career.

Claassen’s confidant and good friend, Ryan Dreyer, will also be playing. The 2009 SA Amateur Champion won the Kwazulu Natal Open in January this year. The thirty eight year old former professional golfer has a lot of experience to draw on in big tournaments such as the South African Open Championship. His ability to play at the coast will put him in good stead to at least make the cut on Friday.

Dylan Frittelli (left) with the Freddie Tait Cup and 2009 SA Open winner Richie Ramsay (SCO)Dylan Frittelli is the current holder of the Freddie Tait Cup.

This Cup is awarded to the leading amateur in each year’s South African Open Championship.

The twenty year old Irene Country Club member, in Gauteng North, is in South Africa on vacation. He is studying at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, where he was awarded a golf scholarship. Frittelli had a disappointing time at the World Amateur Team Championships in Argentina in October. He went into the tournament as South Africa’s mainstay, based on his strong showing in the same event in 2008 where he had a top ten finish. However he finished uncharacteristically in the bottom third of the field. He will be looking to make amends in Durban, upper most in his mind will be to hold onto the Freddie Tait Cup.

Two other amateurs, Riekus Nortje, of Fancourt in Southern Cape, and Coenie Bester, of Middelburg Golf Club in Mpumalanga, both playing the Championship for the first time will be looking to carry their good form through Thursday’s first round.

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