Soutar wins Sanlam SA Amateur Championship

For a second successive year, the Scottish flag was raised at the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship after Fife golfer Brian Soutar beat South Africa’s Brandon Stone for the country’s most coveted amateur title on Friday.

In a gripping final round at Mowbray Golf Club, the finalists went toe to toe for 35 holes before the Scot finally sunk the winning putt for a 2 & 1 victory.

The last Scot standing from the seven-man Scottish Golf Union Men’s Squad that contested the tournament was thrilled to follow in the footsteps of his countryman Michael Stewart, who won the title in an all-Scottish final at Vaal de Grace last year.

“It is such an honour for me to lift this trophy,” the 27-year-old Scotsman said. “At the start of the week I said that I rated this tournament as high as the Scottish Amateur.

“To be honest, when Michael won last year, I figured it must have been easy. I didn’t believe the team when they told us how tough the South Africans are to beat. I was very, very wrong. The standard of golf this country is incredibly high and the talent and depth of the players is world class.

“To go all the way to the final, to face the country’s number one and to win is a dream come true.

“It may have looked as if I didn’t break a sweat, but my heart was racing a few times, especially when I gave two holes away coming down the home stretch. I knew I couldn’t give Brandon an inch. If I did, he would pounce. Even with a cold putter, he is that good; a very tough opponent. I’ve won today, but he is going to be a force one day.”

The finalists completed the first 18 holes all square. The pair will still tied through 19, but Stone opened the door for Soutar with a bogey at the 20th. They traded pars for the next four holes, but Stone surrendered another shot with a bogey at the seventh. Then Soutar messed up the 11th and three-putted the 13th to give Stone a way back in.

A superb tee shot and approach at the par-five 14th, though, set up a 15 foot eagle putt that would swing the momentum back the Scot’s way.

“I knew I had to make that putt, because Brandon just had that look about him,” said Soutar, who knocked it in the centre of the cup. “If I had missed, he would have come at me with everything.”

Soutar took a two shot lead after Stone bogeyed the 16th, but the 18-year-old hit back with a powerful tee shot and an accurate approach to set up a 15-footer for birdie putt to win the hole and extend the match. “The putt held the line and it had the speed but, just as it looked like dropping, it crept an inch past the hole,” said a deflated Stone.

“That was the story of the day. All credit to Brian, though, because he played like a true champion. It was one of the best matches of my career and he deserved to lift the trophy.”

In addition to the amateur world golf ranking points he will earn with this victory, Soutar will also tee it up in the South African Open Championship later this year. “I hope to make the Scottish Team for the Eisenhower Trophy and the Great Britain and Ireland Team for St Andrews. Then, if I make it at European Tour School, I can give myself a good start back here in South Africa.”

Soutar said the journey to this point has been a struggle at times, but winning the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship has given him the inspiration to continue to pursue his dream of turning professional.

The Leven Links amateur graduated from Edinburgh University in 2006 and landed a lucrative job as a welding inspector in Amsterdam. “I had enough put away to give myself a few years to chase my goals, so I decided to cash out in 2010 and devote a few years to my golfing career,” he said.

Soutar won the Scottish Champion of Champions Golf Tournament at Leven Links in his first start but put his back out in his second tournament. “That put me on the bench for a few months. Then I broke my ankle in August and was out again for the few months. Not exactly an auspicious start.”

The ankle actually broke in a wrestling match with team mate Paul Shields during a practice round for the Home Internationals.

“I managed to come back and make the Scottish Golf Union Men’s Squad for 2012.”

Standing with the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship trophy in his arms, Soutar said:

“Now, I guess Paul has paid his dues. As a finalist himself last year, he knew exactly what to expect and he didn’t just carry the bag for me, but kept me calm, entertained, fed and hydrated and focussed where I needed to be.

“I suppose this also means that I’ll have to buy him a beer for every one of those 35 holes.”

Click HERE for final round scores

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