Two top French amateurs take on SA’s best

Adrian Ford receiving Freddie Tait Trophy from SAGA President, Enver HassenTwo of France’s best amateur golfers, David Antonelli and Alexandre Kaleka have entered the 72 hole South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship which starts on Tuesday next week (10 February).

The championship is being played at Pearl Valley Golf Estates, just outside Paarl in the Western Cape, the home of the South African Open Championship.

With the Frenchmen’s extensive international experience in amateur tournament golf, their lack of local knowledge is unlikely to be an inhibiting factor.

In all 101 amateurs have entered, all of whom are either within the top 150 players in South African Amateur Golf Association’s (SAGA) Player Rankings or the top 250 on the R&A’s World Amateur Golf Rankings, both as at 31 December 2008.

“Last year we saw what a great test of golf the pristine and beautifully prepared Pearl Valley layout provided the competitors, along with a good measure of strong south easterly winds,” said Enver Hassen, the SAGA’s President. “With the quality field we have this year, and knowing the condition the golf course will be in, I am confident we are in for some exciting golf,” he said.

Antonelli is the current French Amateur Open Stroke Play Champion who competes with reasonable degree of success in Europe. “Antonelli produced some outstanding golf in the test match we played against France last year, he is a prodigious talent,” explained Hassen.

While his fellow Frenchman, Alexandre Kaleka, has shown some good form of late. He recently lost in a playoff to Marthin Perera, of Sri Lanka, in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship played at Mission Hills in Shanghai, China. He also finished third tie in the Lake Macquarie Amateur, played at Belmont Golf Club, in a small town 80kms north of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. All of these in the last couple of weeks.

Which of the local amateurs are likely to keep the French on their toes?

The current No. 1 ranked player on the SAGA Player Rankings, 22 year old Durbanville Golf Club member, Adrian Ford is a keen competitor. He was the only amateur to make the cut in December’s South African Open Championship, winning the Freddie Tait Cup in the process. He has shown steady form in the first couple of tournaments this year, securing two top five finishes in three starts.

“In fact in the test match against France last year, Adrian Ford was one up against Antonelli in the final match on the final hole of the final day. A win for South Africa would have secured a half. However Antonelli won the hole and the test match for France,” explained Hassen, who was the team manager.

Ford will be keen to make amends on his home ground.

Dean O'Riley, winner of Gauteng North OpenIn form Benoni Lake Golf Club player, Dean O’Riley will be one of the players to watch. The 19 year old from Ekurhuleni is fresh from his win in the 54 hole Gauteng North Open Stroke Play.

Also fresh from victory is 21 year old Fancourt golfer Jake Redman. He won the KZN Open played at San Lameer Country Club. This venue generally provides testing coastal winds for golfers to contend with, perhaps if the wind blows at Pearl Valley next week, as it did in the championship last year, Redman could revel in the conditions and lay claim to the historical trophy.

Last year Jacques Blaauw, of Boland, won the championship with a 72 hole score of 292, four over par, one shot clear of Leon Knoll of Gauteng North. This was the start of Blaauw’s historic double, he went on to win the Glacier SA Amateur the following month.

Knoll, on the other hand did not show the same form during middle and latter part of 2008 as he did in pushing Blaauw all the way to the finish at the beginning of last year. However 2009 appears to be a different story. The 18 year old Gauteng North player, who plays his golf at Silver Lakes Country Club in Pretoria, won the Princes Grant tournament earlier in January by three shots. He will be looking to go one better at Pearl Valley this year.

The South African Amateur Stroke Play was first played in 1969 at Humewood Golf Club in Port Elizabeth. It was won by Dale Hayes. Great names in the history of South African amateur golf have their names engraved on the South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship trophy. They are Ernie Els (1989), Trevor Immelman (1998) and Richard Sterne (2001). Sterne won with a 72 hole aggregate of 266, at Oppenheimer Park Golf Club in Welkom, being the lowest winning score in the history of the championship.

The official practice rounds are on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. The first two round will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday 10 and 11 February 2009 respectively. After 36 holes there will be a cut to the leading 65 players and ties. Those making the cut will contest the final 36 holes which will be played on Thursday and Friday, 18 holes each day.

For additional information on South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship, click here

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