Tough battles ahead Sanlam SA Amateur

With a slew of top English amateurs and a seven-man Scottish Golf Union Men’s Squad competing at this year’s Sanlam South African Amateur Championship, there was the very real possibility that the country’s most prestigious amateur title would find it’s way to the United Kingdom for a third successive year.

But a strong assault in the 36-hole qualifier on Sunday and Monday cut that number in half and top SA amateurs CJ du Plessis and JP Strydom managed to dispatch another two Scotsmen on day one of the match play at Mowbray Golf Club today.

Limpopo’s Du Plessis eliminated James White 3&2 while Strydom from the Western Province claimed a 1-up victory over Fraser McKenna at the last hole.

There is also the certainty that at least one more Scot will be depart in round two with Brian Soutar and compatriot Scott Crichton on a collusion course, which leaves just four foreigners to be dealt with in the top 32 matches.

“It’s never ideal to play your team mates, but with six of us making the grade, it was bound to happen,” said Crichton, knocked out Cedric Rooi of Boland 3&2. Soutar, who scored a convincing 6&4 victory over Southern Cape’s Morten Bredahl, said they are both playing equally well and it should be a great battle.

“We’ve never met in match play, but we are both playing very well at the moment, so it will be a tough match; I expect it could go the full distance and beyond.”

It will fall to Jonathan Dixon, Desne van den Bergh, Breyten Meyer and Armand Scholtz to ensure the British threat does not advance past the top 32 on Wednesday.

Central Gauteng’s Dixon beat Conway Kunneke 1-up and will meet Daniel Kay, who clinched a win over Martin Rohwer with the same margin. Scholtz got the better of Hendre Cilliers at the 18th and will go up against England’s Jamie Clare, who needed 19 holes to knock out Johan Theron.

Southern Cape’s Meyer, who advanced to the top 32 by ousting Thys Swart 3&2, goes up against a man who certainly intends to go all the way this year: last year’s losing finalist Paul Shields, who bowed out to countryman Michael Stewart in an all-Scottish final.

But Van den Bergh undoubtedly faces the toughest match.

The Vaal de Grace golfer, who beat Jacques de Villiers 2&1, will challenge top English amateur Toby Tree, who booked his top 32 spot with a 2&1 victory over Pierre Viviers.

The Englishman has been in the country since January and en route to the SA Amateur, won the Gauteng North Open and clocked a 12 place finish at the SA Stroke Play. In his native England, Worthing’s Tree is a member of the English Boys Squad and has represented his country in both the European Boys Team Championship and the Boys Home Invitational.

“We are facing four strong, talented and capable Britons and it’s definitely going to be a battle,” said Van den Bergh. “We are going to have to come at them like gladiators with no holds barred, clever and aggressive golf. This is not the time to play nice; this is the time to win.”

The country’s leading pair, Brandon Stone and Haydn Porteous, certainly embraced the gladiator mentality and stayed the course with comprehensive first round victories.

Stone thumped Namibia’s Glen de Waal 7&5 and Porteous rode a hot putter to a 5&4 victory over Limpopo’s Henk Geldenhuys.

While Stone is targeting the country’s premier amateur tournament as his last hoorah before he leaves on a golf scholarship to the United States this August, Porteous is bidding to become just the seventh player to win the elusive double – Match Play and Stroke Play titles – in a calendar year.

Meanwhile, Phillip Kruse took full advantage of the number 64 spot he secured in a 10-man play-off on Monday.

The 16-year-old scored one for the little guys in the first match of the day when he emulated Ernie Els’s recent first round victory over world number one Luke Donald at the WGC – Accenture Match Play. The Woodhill golfer dispatched Dylan Raubenheimer just 24 hours after the Somerset West teenager accepted the Proudfoot Trophy for winning the 36-hole stroke play qualifier.

Kruse will face a gritty second round opponent in Southern Cape’s Shaun Smith, who is ranked sixth in the country.

And recent Springbok cap Drikus Bruyns will have to bring his A-game when he takes on the first day’s youngest survivor, Tristen Strydom. The 15-year-old Gauteng North golfer showed nerves of steel to win his opening match against Graeme Vrugtman 2&1 and is bound to push Bruyns to his limit.

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