5 February 2024 – Fourteen-year-old Ben Weber made history as the youngest winner of the Proudfoot Trophy – the 36-hole stroke play qualifier for the South African Amateur Championship – since its inception in 1931 when he edged countryman Simon du Plooy and Netherlands’ Lars van der Vight by a stroke.
With rounds of 69 and a bogey-free 66 across Royal Johannesburg’s East Course, Weber set an early clubhouse target of nine under par, but faced an anxious five-hour wait as the chasing pack closed him down.
Late starter, fellow GolfRSA National Squad member Nash de Klerk, made the strongest charge and got within two shots with a trio of birdies from the 10th. The former Royal member was unable to take advantage of the two remaining par fives on the front nine, though, and Weber could exhale when De Klerk dropped on the 8th hole.
“It was a nerve-wracking wait for most of the day,” said Weber, after watching De Klerk par the par-five closing hole to come up short of forcing a playoff. “I finished quite early, at 12 o’clock, and Nash finished late, so it was a very long wait.”
Weber, who hails from East London, popped on to GolfRSA’s radar as an 11-year-old, and after his three-shot victory in the Nomads SA U-15 Championship last year, the Border junior was inducted into the GolfRSA National Squad in May 2023.
His first Open Amateur win is a sweet one.
“I had to miss the South African Stroke Play Championship at Mount Edgecombe due to school, but I was thrilled to tee it up in my first SA Amateur,” said the Selborne College learner.
“I didn’t play badly in the first round, but the putter was a bit cold. I had a great round – a bogey-free 66 – and the putter was really working. It all came together. There were some deadly pins out there, and I took chances where there was a slight bail-out on the holes. It felt great to finish strong like that.”
Weber had a trio of birdies on his outward nine and racked up three more on the testing back nine.
“On the 13th [par-4] I hit it to a metre and a half and made a great putt for birdie. On the short 16th I didn’t hit the best approach, but I holed a long putt for birdie, and on the 18th, I left my second shot just short, chipped it to give and boxed the birdie putt,” said Weber.
Notable early winners of the Proudfoot Trophy include five-time Open champion Bobby Locke and legends of the game Hugh Baiocchi, Denis Hutchinson, Dale Hayes and Mark McNulty. In recent years, Major champion Trevor Immelman, DP World Tour winners Brandon Stone and Haydn Porteous, and Sunshine Tour champion Luca Filippa have etched their names on this iconic piece of silverware.
“I’m so proud to have my name on the trophy alongside so many great champions,” said Weber. “I have to say well done to Nash. I watched him play on the back and he kept fighting for the title all the way to the end. But I can’t think about the win for too long as tomorrow we start from scratch again and I’ll need to be at my best.”
Weber’s reward is a first-round match against Gauteng’s Tristan Leonard, who survived a 10-man playoff for the final spot in the 64-man match play field.
Du Plooy, who’s ninth in the GolfRSA ranking, will take on Bernard Koster in the first round, while world no 84 Van der Vight, who tied for second at Mount Edgecombe, earned the third spot in the seeding and faces Oliver Scriven from Pearl Valley in the first knockout round.
South African Stroke Play champion Jordan Burnand tied for 5th with De Klerk and fellow South African Gary Kemp. The GolfRSA No 2 plays course favourite Pranay Kapur in round one, while De Klerk goes up against Juan Coetzee, and Kemp takes on Fabrizio de Abreu.
The other picks among the first-round matches are the country’s top-ranked amateur Altin van der Merwe against unheralded Wiehan van der Walt, and Nomads SA Boys U-19 Stroke Play champion Dan Bennett versus fellow GolfRSA National Squad member Jack Buchanan.