Top SA amateurs gearing up for Spirit

With less than a four weeks before they depart for the United States, four of South Africa’s top amateurs are hard at work preparing for the 2013 Spirit International in Texas from 30 October to 2 November.

The chosen quartet to go up against 19 countries from six continents in the acclaimed biennial event at Whispering Pines near Trinity include the South African Golf Association’s number one Christiaan Bezuidenhout and number four Louis Taylor, as well as Kim Williams and Lara Weinstein, respectively second and third on Womens Golf SA’s senior rankings.

The prestigious Spirit Invitational was established in 2001 and is played in alternate years with the equally prestigious World Amateur Golf Championships.

Each country fields a team of four, comprising two top ranked amateur women and men who compete in three concurrent competitions. The format is Four-Ball Stroke Play and the men’s and women’s Four-Ball scores are combined for the International Team competition.

Bezuidenhout hopes to depart having added a sixth provincial trophy to a groaning mantle.

The Nigel golfer has enjoyed a watershed season with victories in the EP/Border Stroke Play, the Western Province Stroke Play and Match Play, the Limpopo Open and the Nkangala Mining Equipment Mpumalanga Open.

The Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation member was also instrumental in securing A-Division promotion for Ekurhuleni at the SA Inter-Provincial, sponsored by Tempest, at Rustenburg Golf Club last week. This weekend, Bezuidenhout will be hunting a home union victory at the Ekurhuleni Open, but the 19-year-old expects some strong opposition at the Benoni Country Club.

“Any time you are going up against former number one Zander Lombard, the Taylor twins (Eddie and Louis) and most of the top 10 players, you know you are in for a battle,” said Bezuidenhout.

“If you add Dylan Raubenheimer, the defending champion, and some of my Ekurhuleni team mates like Kyle McClatchie and NJ Arnoldi, and suddenly the job becomes even tougher.

“I would like to get another win under my belt before we leave for the Spirit, but you can’t make that the focus. You just have to take it hole-by-hole and shot-by-shot and play to your best ability.”

Meanwhile Williams and Weinstein are being put through their paces by WGSA head coach Val Holland and assistant coach Anna Becker at the WGSA Elite Squad camp in Stellenbosch this weekend.

Although Williams is riding a wave of confidence after leading the Gauteng North A side to their seventh consecutive victory in the Pick n Pay SA Womens Inter-Provincial in Port Elizabeth last week, the 27-year-old is quick to warn against complacency.

“It doesn’t matter how good you thing you are, there is always going to be someone who is better, so you have to continuously aim to improve,” Williams said. “These camps are fantastic. You get to work on your entire game, your fitness and mental health and you iron out any irregularities with the game.”

Williams and Weinstein will put their Elite Squad training to practice when they return to the HPC Academy at the University of Pretoria where national coach, Llewellyn van Leeuwen, will further work on their preparation.

While Weinstein will be making her debut in the international team event, Williams is an old hand.

The reigning Sanlam SA Amateur Match Play champion is returning for a record fourth time and hopes to make a real statement with Weinstein this year.

“Our best performance in the team competition was joint fifth last year, but in my three trips to Whispering Heights, we never finished in the top 10. We came joint 11th twice, though, so this year it is a big goal for Lara and I to get a top 10 finish.”

The field for the 2013 Spirit International includes Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

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