Top amateurs gun for SA Mid-Amateur glory

Greg Sheard will launch his title defence in the South African Mid-Amateur Stroke Play at Ruimsig Country Club on Tuesday, but high stakes and a clutch of in-form champions has increased the pressure on the defending champion.

“I have a lot of ranking points to defend this week, so it is crucial that I do well, but it won’t be easy,” said the country’s number one ranked mid-amateur.

“There is a lot at stake for me, because the SAGA will also be choosing the four-man side that will represent South Africa at the International Team Mid-Amateur after the championship.

“I haven’t done anything significant so far this season, while Joseph Fourie is coming off back-back-to-back wins and Gerlou Roux has also enjoyed a hot run lately.

“I need a solid start and four great rounds. I’ve prepared well, though, so I will just take the same approach as last year and take it one shot at a time.”

Volvo Ekurhuleni Mid-Amateur Open winner Kevin Sharp is certainly looking for a podium finish to boost his chances of making the team to France in July.

The SA number four put a lot of time into his preparation and believes he has a shot at the title.

“I think I’m driving the ball the best I have all season,” Sharp said. “Around this track, that’s going to be important if you want to make birdies. You have to pick your lines with precision.”

Sharp, however, also fears the two former professionals.

“They have to be the hands-down favourites to win,” Sharp said. “Joseph won the Free State and Southern Cape Mid-Amateur Opens in a row, he is in competitive form and very sharp at the moment.

“Gerlou has had a great run on the Open amateur circuit, but he won the Highveld Mid-Amateur Open at Middelburg Country Club and I believe that’s what makes him dangerous; he adapts well and quickly, and he is very competitive and driven.”

Fourie, meanwhile, prefers to downplay the adoration.

“I’ve been in this game for too many years to get over-confident,” said the country’s number two. “Things change in the blink of an eye. The course is in great nick and the greens are running fast and true, so let’s rather say that the guy with the hottest putter this week will get the podium finish.”

Leon de Lange will lead the 12-man strong Ruimsig contingent.

The 39-year-old carded two rounds of 66 on his way to victory in the Volvo Central Gauteng Mid-Amateur Open at the host venue in February and a 67 in the practice round on Sunday left him in high spirits.

He agrees with Fourie’s assessment of the course.

“A hot putter is the key this week and I’m glad mine is smoking a little right now,” he joked.

“Hopefully my knowledge of the layout and my current form will keep me in the running, because I would love a shot at this title.”

Fourie and De Lange also agree that the layout will suit everyone, however, the greens could be the deciding factor.

“The fairways here are generous, so everyone has a chance off the tees,” De Lange said.

“The greens are pretty big, but they are slick and fast, though. You have to be on top of your putts around this course if you want to chance to challenge.

“I agree with Joseph; the guy wielding the hottest putter this week will be the champion.”

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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