Stone leads early charge at Sanlam SA Amateur

The country’s number one Brandon Stone fired a eight-under-par 64 to set the early target in the first round of the 36-hole Stroke Play qualifier for Sanlam SA Amateur Championship at Vaal de Grace Golf Estate near Parys on today.

On a day when gentle weather conditions at the Vaal should suggest otherwise, the Gardener Ross standout was one of only 17 players in the morning field to complete the first round under par.

Stone is two strokes clear of NJ Arnoldi and three ahead of Scott Vincent, Nathan Waghorn and Richard Crawshay-Hall.

SA Stroke Play champion Jared Harvey finished four behind alongside Conway Kunnneke, promising junior Armand Scholtz and former pro Kevin Sharp.

Stone assumed the top spot on the South African Golf Associations rankings last week. Tee to green, the 17-year-old buckled down to work early and his game plan proved deadly accurate. He blitzed the first nine holes in four under with birdies at the third, fifth, seventh and eight, continued his march with birdie number five at the par four 10th and a run of four birdies from the 14th for another loop of 32.

A bogey at the par tree 12th was the only blip on an otherwise perfect round. “I just over clubbed, really,” said Stone. “It was an awkward distance. We had 194 and I hit a six iron. It was half a club too much and bounced through the green. I got it to the green but didn’t read the putt well enough for par.”

Stone has been working on a pretty big swing change with his coach, Llewellyn

“I’ve been hitting it well on the range and today it came paid off nicely,” he said. “I was never really in trouble today. “I missed just two greens and two fairways in regulation and that gave me good opportunities to go for the flags.

Stone is also yielding a new putter after a dismal performance on the greens at Mount Edgecombe during the SA Stroke Play, where he nevertheless scrambled well enough to tie for fifth.

“I worked with Leonard Loxton of Titleist and they built a Scotty for me that works well with my stroke,” he explained. “The ball is coming off the face nicely and I’m rolling it properly. This was probably my best putting round for some time.

“I feel like I’m playing well enough to shoot some really low numbers; looking forward to doing that.”

Arnoldi, who switched from rugby to golf in 2008, only began playing the amateur circuit full-time after matriculating last year.

He spends a lot of time playing with Sunshine Tour professional Vaughn Groenewald and

The Ermelo player completed a bogey-free front nine to turn in three under and dropped just one shot before hammering home birdies at 15, 16 and 17 for another 33.

“At the 13th, the par four, my tee shot landed in the semi-rough,” the Ermelo player explained. “I hit a six-iron but it came out too fat and got caught in the bunker on the left, about 20 meters short of the green. Bunker shots at that length are among my weaker shots, so not surprisingly, I flew it past the hole and ran the putt through the break.

“Overall, I’m happy that I gave myself a lot of chances. I hit a lot of approached pin high and around the pins and I put myself in a good position for the second round.”

Leading Scores:

64 Brandon Stone
66 NJ Arnoldi
67 Scott Vincent; Nathan Waghorn; Richard Crawshay-Hall
68 Conway Kunnneke; Jared Harvey; Armand Scholtz; Kevin Sharp
69 Shaun Stapleton; Burger Heckroodt; Aubrey Barnard; Jacques van Tonder
71 Glen de Waal; Douglas Jeffery; Gert Myburgh; Callum Mowat
72 Cedric Rooi; Joshua Seale; Stuart Smith; Muzi Nethunzwi; Jason Alexandre; Danie Pretorius; Damian Naicker; Oswin Schlenkrich; Neil Meyer; Luke Jerling

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