Smith, Kana move into contention at SA Stroke Play

Centurion’s Jason Smith, Fezekile Kana from the Eastern Province and France’s Paul Elissalde took Route 66 to move into contention in the second round of the South African Stroke Play Championship on Tuesday.

Smith remained flawless round through 14 holes at Benoni Country Club, and after dropping a shot at the 15th, hit back with a string of three birdies to sign for the six-under-par 66.

The superb effort left the 19-year-old Irene Country Club player tied with Elissade on seven under, just one shot off the overnight target, set by Ekurhuleni favourite Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

Smith fussed over the ill-timed bogey at the par-three 15th that marred his near-perfect round.

“It was a silly mistake and it shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “In the first round I took a six-iron from 192 meters and overshot the green, so with that weighing on my mind, I was undecided about what club to take,” he explained.

“I ended up going with an eight-iron, because I only had 178 to the pin and I hit it way right. I was pretty annoyed with myself, but these things happen. At least I’ve given myself a chance with two rounds to play.”

SAGDB graduate Kana countered his opening 73 with a smooth 66 to make an almighty push up the leaderboard to five under.

The 21-year-old from Port Elizabeth reeled in four birdies on the front nine, erased a bogey at 11 with a birdie at the 16th and boxed a 12-footer putt for eagle at the par-five 18th to finish within two shots of the early pacesetters.

The Motherwell golfer was delighted with his effort.

“This was one of my best rounds ever,” he said. “I haven’t played this course before, but I found that it suits my game. I really like the layout and flow, and the challenges are fair and you get punished for going off line.”

And Kana did pay the price of a wayward drive at the 11th.

“I was forced to hit a high cut over the trees to get the ball back in play and it plugged in the greenside bunker,” he said. “I tried to get it out, but flew the green and the ball landed in the bunker on the opposite side. All in all, an ugly hole but a good bogey, considering.

“I’m just happy to be in contention and to be playing golf like this at the SA Stroke Play. Now I just have to keep myself in this position so I can be around for the battle in the final round.”

Elissalde played the Ten Nations Cup at Kingswood last year and tied for 29th at the SA Stroke Play at Oubaai. The Frenchman said his is finding his second visit to South Africa a lot more profitable.

“I think that the Test we played against the juniors helped me to adjust to the altitude and distance that the ball travels up here,” the 18-year-old said.

“It’s nice to be in this position with two rounds to play. I like the course, too, so I am looking forward to the next two days.”

Elissalde’s countryman Romain Langasque reeled in three birdies to turn in two under, and survived a colourful trip home that included three birdies, two double bogeys and an eagle for a 69 to join Nicolas Gillespie (70), Zander Lombard (70) and Kyle McClatchie (72) at four under.

Second Round Leading Scores

137 Jason Smith 71-66; Paul Elissalde FRA 71-66

139 Fezekile Kana 73-66

140 Nicolas Gillespie 70-70; Romain Langasque FRA 71-70; Zander Lombard 70-70; Kyle McClatchie 68-72

141 Andre van der Knaap 70-71; Edgar Catherine FRA 71-70; Gerlou Roux 71-70

142 Bryce McCabe 70-72; Garth Clements 69-73; Mathieu Decottignies-Lafon FRA 69-73

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