Stone refuses to buckle at SA Stroke Play

The presence of Brandon Stone looms large at Glendower Golf Club after the overnight leader extended his advantage to five strokes in Wednesday’s second round of the South African Stroke Play Championship.

The country’s leading amateur took route 66 for a one shot lead on Tuesday and maintained his irrepressible form with a four-under-par 68 to set the midway target at 10 under 134.

Desne van den Bergh and Callum Mowat and SA number two, Haydn Porteous will lead the local charge at five under while Italy’s Francesco Bolognezi will carry the international challenge.

Porteous signed for a 71 while the South Africans and Bolognezi carded 70s.

England’s Toby Tree is back in contention at four under after firing a three-under-par 69 a week after claiming the Gauteng North Stroke Play. The Englishman shares sixth place with Lionel Weber of France, who hung on with a 73, and local golfer JD Oosthuizen, who stayed in touch with a 71.

Meanwhile Soweto Country Club’s Muzi Nethenzwi fired a 70 to claim a share of eighth with Gert Myburgh at three-under-par 141.

But Stone remains the man to beat.

The 18-year-old Gauteng North golfer got off to a rocky start with a bogey at the 10th, but hit back with a birdie at the 11th for what he described as his best hole of the day.

“I hit my tee shot into the fairway trap on the left and I had about 120m left to a back pin, which is always tricky,” he explained.

“I hit an unbelievable gap-wedge to about 15 foot and holed it for birdie. That was just the kind of result I needed to get the momentum back after their bogey at the 10th.”

Stone enjoyed a brace of birdies at 14 and 15 to turn in 34 and birdied the second to dip to three under. But after four pars, he fell foul of the short stick and three-putted from 20 feet put a second blue number on his card.

“I hit a superb drive at that hole,” he said. “I had a 118 yards to the pin and I pulled a gap-wedge; came over the top and hit it 15 yards long and 20 yards left.

“From a hole where I’m looking to make birdie, I’m leaving with a bogey. It felt like a two-shot swing.”

But Stone retaliated again, this time with back-to-back birdies at the closing holes.

“I hit a great tee shot at the par-three to two feet for eagle at the 17th and the putt swung a foot, but I still made the birdie and birdied the last, so I was happy that I came back from both bogeys to level the score.”

Stone knows he has a target on his back going into the final two rounds.

“I’ve got a five shot lead but there will be at least 60 guys coming for me,” he said.

“Given the quality of the field, I’m taking nothing for granted. If I’m not at the top of my game, they will catch me. So I’ll stick to the same game; it’s worked so far, so why change it?

“I set myself a target of 12 under for the week, but I’m at 10 under so I need to push it to 16 under or 18 under, just to keep the pressure on myself.”

After signing for his 68, Stone spoke of his desire to capture the Stroke Play Championship.

“I want to win this title very, very much. I had a chance last year and I didn’t succeed, so this is my second shot. It’s just something I really want to achieve.”

While Stone spoke about his hopes for the week, Leonard Loxton had his own reasons to celebrate. The former professional is giving the SA Stroke Play one more shot and under the guidance of his caddie, 14-time Sunshine Tour winner Jean Hugo, shot a 73 to come in one shot under the cut to 65 and ties, set at six-over-par 150.

“Now the real work starts for Leonard,” said Hugo. “I’ve done my bit and got him past the cut; now the rest is up to him.”

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