Stone makes an early move at SA Stroke Play

Brandon Stone got his South African Stroke Play Championship campaign off to a spirited start when he charged to the head of affairs at Glendower Golf and Country Club on Tuesday.
Stone cruised to his familiar place at the top of the leaderboard with a near-flawless opening six-under-par 66 and held a three-shot lead for most of the day.

However, his cushion was cut to just one stroke by late finishers, Frenchman Lionel Weber and South Africa’s Gert Myburgh. Haydn Porteous, the country’s number two, also joined the action when he slipped into fourth on his own with a four-under-par 68.

Scott Crichton of Scotland, Italy’s Andrea Bolognesi and South Africans JD Oosthuizen, Jason Froneman and Desne van den Bergh, Victor Lange and Callum Mowat share fifth on 69 with Pretoria’s Kenny Goosen at two under alongside Scots Conor O’Neil and Brian Soutar.

But all the attention on day one was on the country’s leading amateur.

A year ago, Stone was patently unhappy with his game after a tie for fifth in the same event and has spent long hours on the range and working on his short game. This work ethic certainly brought its own reward.

Stone won five events and enjoyed a slew of top five and top 10 finishes before claiming the Freddie Tait Trophy as the leading amateur at the South African Open Championship and the number one ranking for 2011.

A top 30 finish at the European and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned Joburg Open, backed by successive victories at the Prince’s Grant Invitational and KwaZulu-Natal Stroke Play in January, has left Stone well prepared for his quest this week.

“I had a fantastic season last year and I’m still building on that, but I always felt something got left behind,” he explained. “I didn’t win one of the big ones and that still haunts me.

“Every amateur wants their name on the SA Stroke Play or the Sanlam SA Match Play trophy. Or both. It’s just something I really want to achieve.”

Stone said, given the strong international presence in the field this year, he knew he would have to launch with a solid effort.

“I knew I would have to get off to a fast start. I’m stoked that I put together such a solid round.”

But the Els Club Copperleaf amateur expects his lead to come under pressure.

“There are seven members of the Scottish Elite Squad here, five top Italians and French amateurs and a bunch of top English amateurs competing here this week,” he said. “That is a lot of pressure when you also include the South Africans.

“When those guys get warmed up, they are going turn up the heat, especially with me in front. I’m pleased with the outcome today but now the pressure is on to maintain this standard.”

Like Stone, Weber from Mulhouse near Strasbourg dropped just one shot, but Myburgh surprised even himself with a bogey-free round.

“Brandon set us a near impossible target at this course, so I’m just thrilled that I managed to catch up; well, almost,” gushed the Ekurhuleni amateur. “The course is tricky, but if you plan your way around this track and you don’t get too fancy, you can post a decent score.”

Weber said he thought it was a pretty decent round, except for the bogey at the par-four 16.

“There is a massive bunker and I hit it right into the trap,” he explained. “I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe I stopped to think. I think we call it a strategic error. Tomorrow I will miss that bunker.”

Click here to view the full first round scores.

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