Lali Stander – MALELANE, 27 February 2017 – South Africa’s Albert Venter is looking forward to his title defence in the African Amateur Championship at Leopard Creek Golf Estate in Mpumalanga this week.
Venter swept to victory in the inaugural international championship last year, in no small part thanks to two superb 65s in the first and third rounds. The 20-year-old Silver Lakes golfer held off a charging international pack to claim an emphatic five stroke victory over Jamie Savage from Scotland, with Jamie Bower from England and Scotsmen Jack McDonald and Craig Ross a further stroke back.
Just 10 weeks later, Venter defeated won the Western Province Stroke Play Championship in a play-off and these two triumphs, as well as nine other top 10 finishes, helped him to a top five position on the South African Golf Association Open Amateur Rankings.
Between the impressive performances here on home soil, Venter also picked up a third trophy last season in the MCB Indian Ocean Amateur Golf Open in Mauritius.
The Leopard Creek victory earned him a start in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and – rather poetically – he ended the season where he began. He received an invitation to compete in the European and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, where he missed the cut by a single stroke. As a result of all the experience he gained last year, Venter believes that he returns to Leopard Creek a stronger, wiser player and he is relishing the chance to defend his title.
“It’s going to be a nice new experience for me,” he said. “The victory last year was great, and I’m looking forward to having another good week again. I like the course, I love the tournament and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I always felt like I could win an international event and I proved it that week. I was the champion in a field that was full of top international players. The victory also gave me the chance to travel to the United Kingdom with some of other GolfRSA players and compete in top international events. That expanded my experience and my course management and it highlighted things to work on that allowed me to perform at an even higher level.
“A couple of months afterwards, I was able to win again in the MCB Indian Ocean Amateur Golf Open in Mauritius. With those three wins, it was a great breakthrough season for me and the victory at Leopard Creek kicked off everything.
“I had great control over my irons into greens and the greens at Leopard Creek can be quite severe. You want to hit the right spots and know the contours going into them. That was key for me and I had a great week with the putter. I will really enjoy going back and having the chance to defend the title.”
Venter will face another field of top international players, including world number 18 Connor Syme from Scotland, 2017 SA Stroke Play champion Edgar Catherine from France and 2016 English Amateur Championship winner Dan Brown, but there will be more than just his title defence on the line for Venter, though.
He makes his debut for South Africa in the SA Senior Team and will partner Kyle McClatchie, Aubrey Beckley and Marco Steyn in the 54-hole Team Competition, which will be played concurrently with the first three rounds of the championship.
Scotland is back in defence, while the rest of the line-up includes India, Mauritius, France, England, Reunion, Switzerland, Zimbabwe and a SA Junior Team featuring Sanlam SA Amateur champion Christo Lamprecht, Garrick Higgo, Luca Filippi and Jayden Schaper.