Stone puts it together at Sanlam SA Amateur

It is said that putting most reveals a golfer’s state of mind and on a balmy day at Vaal de Grace on Sunday, teenager Brandon Stone was a picture of mental calmness as he putted superbly for a two-stroke lead in the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship qualifier.

The country’s number one amateur opened with an eight-under-par 64 to lead the first round the 36-hole Stroke Play qualifier by two strokes.

Scotland’s Kris Nicol (pictured) and Ermelo’s NJ Arnoldi both produced loops of 33 to share second, while Scott Vincent, Nathan Waghorn, Graham van der Merwe and Richard Crawshay-Hall share joint fourth on five-under-par 67.

Recent SA Stroke Play winner Jared Harvey managed a four-under-par 68 to tie for eighth, while runner-up David Law carded a 69 and Scotland’s number one, Michael Stewart signed off on an even-par 72.

Stone arrived at the Nick Price designed layout wielding a new putter and modified swing.

“I’ve been working with my coach, Llewellyn (van Leeuwen) on opening my back swing and we practiced quite a lot at the driving range last week,” the 17-year-old explained.

“Today it paid off nicely. 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.”

And he found the putting stroke he’s been searching for since a tie for fifth at SA Stroke Play.

“Titleist built me a Scotty 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.

Stone turned in 32 after birdies at the third, fifth, seventh and eighth. After birdie number five at the 10th, Stone picked the wrong club and dropped a shot at the par-three 12th. “It was an awkward distance and I over-clubbed,” he said. “But the drop kind of fired me up.

“I told myself not to get hung up on the bogey and to move forward.” The message came through and Stone produced a run of four birdies from the 14th to complete the back nine in 32. “I feel like I’m playing well enough to shoot some really low numbers; looking forward to doing that.”

Arnoldi switched to golf after sustaining a rugby injury in 2008. The lanky amateur practices with Sunshine Tour professional Vaughn Groenewald and is coached by former pro, Dougie Wood.

“I matriculated last year, so I’ve only been playing for about four months,” he explained. “This is my seventh start and this round equals my previous best round (at the International Teams competition in November last year).

He, too, dropped just one shot. “Overall, I’m happy that I gave myself a lot of chances. I hit a lot of approaches pin high and around the pins and I putted really well. I put myself in a good position for the second round. I’ll just have to tell my caddie to keep polishing the putter so it stays hot.”

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