Shaun Smith goes into the Sanlam SA Amateur ranked fourth

Shaun Smith

CAPE TOWN (17 February 2012) – To win the Sanlam South African Amateur Match Play title is the crowning glory for any South African amateur golfer. But to win this prestigious title at historic Mowbray Golf Club will be the icing on the cake, says recently crowned SA Stroke Play champion, Haydn Porteous.

“Mowbray hosted all the major amateur championships and the SA Amateur was held there five times. Any golf club that has hosted the South African Open Championship seven times, is a tried and tested venue,” saidSouth Africa’s number two ranked golfer.

“Mowbray is steeped in tradition and it’s bound to provide us with a stern test of golf. It will almost be a double victory to win the Sanlam SA Amateur at a course with such a pedigree.”

The 102-year-old club, set at the foot ofTableMountainand renowned for its breathtaking views, lush fairways and immaculate greens, will provide the setting for the country’s oldest amateur tournament from 26 February to 2 March 2012.

Although it has been 35 years since unheralded Russell Kotzen handed George Schwartzel – father of reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel – an 8/7 beating, Mowbray’s reputation as a tough and uncompromising challenge is still holding strong.

With the last two Sanlam SA Amateur champions hailing from theUnited Kingdom, the country’s leading amateurs are hopeful that the barren spell will end in the heart ofCape Town.

A week ago Porteous came from behind in the final round at Glendower Golf Club to win the SA Stroke Play Championship. Now he hopes to emulate contemporaries Jacques Blaauw and Louis de Jager, two of only six players to ever win the South African Stroke Play and Match Play titles in the same calendar year.

But, said Porteous, it will take six days of hard work to add his name to the elite list of former champions.

“First there is the 36-hole, full-field qualifier over two days,” the 17-year-old Modderfontein golfer explained. “Once you’ve made the top-64 to qualify for the Sanlam SA Amateur, you have to play your way through the top-32, top-16, top eight and top four to reach the final. Then there is a 36-hole final to win. That is a whole lot of golf. I think it will be the guy who can tough it out mentally and physically that will win.”

Despite his patchy form of late, Porteous believes his good friend and the country’s leading amateur, Brandon Stone, will be the man to beat.

“They say form is temporary, class is permanent, andBrandonis a true class act. His day will come. He won two successive tournaments this year, he is the country’s number one and he led the SA Stroke Play through two rounds,” he said.

“He let it slip in the final two rounds, but two off days for a player like him is nothing. Those last two rounds were probably the worst golf he has played in a year and he still managed to tie for sixth.Brandonwants the Sanlam SA Amateur title badly as kind of a swansong before he leaves for college in theUnited Statesin August. I think he will be the guy to beat.”

Sanlam Group Marketing Sponsorship manager, Gary van Loggerenberg said that although Stone and Porteous are the favourites, there are a lot of top ranked golfers to consider and the local contingent could not be discounted.

“Mowbray is a traditional parklands layout that will suit most of the guys in the field, but the local golfers have the advantage of knowing how to navigate theCape Townwinds, especially that nasty South-Easter,” he said.

“CJ du Plessis, Shaun Smith, Zander Lombard and Gert Myburgh are ranked third to sixth on the SAGA’s current rankings and they will be coming to Mowbray on the back of the SA Stroke Play and the Test against the Scottish Elite Squad at Leopard Creek,” he said. “They will definitely mount a spirited challenge and in Match Play, anything can happen. It could be anyone’s game when conditions are ideal, but if the weather turns, the Mowbray course will show its teeth and if you throw in a bit of rain and wind, local players like Drikus Bruyns or JP Strydom will have the advantage. I think this year’s Sanlam SA Amateur will shape up to be one of the most exciting in recent years.”

With the South African Stroke Play Championship trophy on his mantle, Porteous is certainly the form player going into the tournament and his confidence will be sky high.

“I’ve learned that you have to work hard to maintain your form over the course of a tournament and that you should never stop fighting,” said the teenager from Kyalami. “I will just play my own game and keep my eye on the end goal.”

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