Stone and Lombard to debut at US Amateur

Two of South Africa’s leading amateur golfers, Brandon Stone and Zander Lombard, will make their debut at the US Amateur Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills, Colorado from 13-19 August.

One of the world’s most prestigious championships for amateur golfers, the US Amateur is the oldest golf championship in the United States and 18-time Major winner Jack Nicklaus and 14-time Major champion Tiger Woods are among the greats who have lifted the Havemeyer Trophy.

Ranked first in South Africa and in the top 30 of the world amateur golf rankings, Stone will be taking up a golf scholarship at the University of Texas this August. Before he left for the United States in July, Stone amassed a slew of top 10 finishes in South Africa, including victories at the Prince’s Grant Invitational, KwaZulu-Natal Open and Cape Province Open. In April, he also narrowly lost the Sanlam South African Match Play Championship title to Scotland’s Brian Soutar in March.

The 19-year-old Els Club – Copperleaf golfer is both delighted and apprehensive about the prospect of challenging the world’s top amateurs in Colorado.

“The US Amateur is a without a doubt one of the most prestigious tournaments in amateur golf,” he said. “I’m just thrilled to have earned the chance to test myself against the best amateurs in the world, but I’m also a little nervous, because I’m entering unknown territory.

“All one can do is to prepare well and play each round to the best of your ability. Whatever the outcome, the experience will far outweigh the results in my view. It’s an unbelievable chance to gain experience, to test myself and to see how my game holds up under what I believe will be incredible pressure.”

Woodhill’s Lombard has also established himself as a rising star in South African amateur circles.

Ranked third on the South African Golf Associations rankings, the 17-year-old underlined his growing stature with eight top 10 finishes this season, including victories at the Northern Amateur Stroke Play and North West Open, second at the Gauteng North Open and third at the Free State & Northern Cape Open.

While Stone qualified for the US Amateur on the strength of his world ranking, Lombard had to go the qualifying route and tied for third in a qualifier at the Dye Course at Colleton River Plantation, where he scooped one of just five spots on offer for the field of 120 players.

“I’m absolutely rearing to go,” said Lombard, who also represented South Africa at the World Junior Golf Team Championships in Japan in June.

“I’ve done a lot of hard work this year to get into this position, but I’m not going into the tournament with any expectations. I’m going to give it my best shot and learn as much as I can from the experience. If I do well in the process, it will be a bonus.”

After the first two rounds of Stroke Play, the top 64 players advance to the Match Play and Lombard has made the Match Play his goal. “I would at least like to get to the Match Play section, so I can gain as much experience as possible, playing against the best in the world,” he said

SAGA president Colin Burger said the SAGA is confident that Stone and Lombard will fly the flag for South Africa and that the tournament will stand them in good stead when they tee it up alongside second ranked Haydn Porteous in the Eisenhower Trophy at the biennial World Amateur Team Championships in Turkey from 4 to 7 October 2012.

“It’s an enormous honour for South Africa to have two of our highest ranked players in the field and competing at such a prestigious event,” said Burger.

“Although it will be a big occasion for both of them, Brandon and Zander know the pressure of competing at the highest level. I have no doubt that they will give this challenge everything they’ve got.”

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