ST ANDREWS, Scotland (8 June 2017) – KwaZulu-Natal amateur Matt Saulez will be among a crew of nine home grown heroes competing against a world-class field in this year’s St Andrews Links Trophy, which tees off at St Andrews in Scotland on Friday.
Saulez showed composure, mental strength and a solid golf game to tie for ninth in the Carrick Neill Scottish Men’s Open Championship last Sunday and the 20-year-old Durban Country Club amateur is keen to keep the form going in his debut at the Home of Golf.
“I just had a really solid tournament, from ball striking to putting,” said Saulez, who posted rounds of 71, 73, 69 and 71 at Western Gailes Golf Club to finish at even-par 284.
“The course was right next to the beach, so the wind was a big factor, especially over the 36 holes on Sunday. I was able to control my ball flight nicely, and I rolled it good on the greens.
“Most importantly, though, I stayed calm and patient, even when I made mistakes. I must thank Kyle (McClatchie), who caddied for me on the last day. He stuck it out in cold and windy conditions and having him on the bag made for a really fun day.
“We’ve had practice rounds at the Jubilee Course and the Old Course and although it rained non-stop, I liked both courses. But hopefully it won’t be duck weather for the next three days. Western Gailes was my first taste of links golf in the United Kingdom and I really enjoyed it
“I don’t have any nerves ahead of the St Andrews Links Trophy; I’m just excited to get going. There has never been a South African winner in this event. We’ve got a great group of players here this week and we are all keen to bring another trophy home.”
Saulez will join fellow GolfRSA National Squad members Franklin Manchest, Marco Steyn, Brabazon Trophy winner Kyle McClatchie, Albert Venter, as well as Jovan Rebula and Dylan Naidoo, who are in the UK on a break from the US college circuit.
Venter, who shared ninth spot with Saulez at Western Gailes, said the squad is in high spirits.
“We really have a great group of guys at St Andrews this year, and there is a great spirit in the camp,” said the Gauteng North amateur. “Last year, Jovan tied for 15th but the rest of us missed the cut. Our collective goal this year is for everyone to make it to Sunday.”
Venter said having strength and conditioning specialist Gavin Groves from TuksSport with the players over the last few weeks has added to the camaraderie and positive spirit in the squad.
“Neil (Homann) from SAGA organised for the squad to use the St Andrews Functional Fitness facility and Gavin worked us hard,” Venter said. “Training together has really fuelled the fire.
“I think it’s also been good that some of us have played St Andrews Links Trophy before and we could show the newbies around. We play to win, but the guys support each other and the camaraderie is great.”
While Manchest will be looking to better his tie for 36th at Western Gailes, 17-year-old Higgo, who finished joint 32nd, departed for Japan on Friday to join juniors Christo Lamprecht, Jayden Schaper and Luca Filippi for next week’s Toyota Junior World Cup.
Gregory Royston from KZN and Gauteng North’s Keegan de Lange complete the local line-up.
The first round of the 72-hole stroke play championship will be played over the Jubilee Course and the second round at the world-famous Old Course. After the cut to 40 and ties, the final 36 holes will contested at the Old Course on Sunday.
Based on the strength of the field, the St Andrews Links Trophy is ranked as one of the strongest amateur tournaments in the world by the R&A World Amateur Rankings.
Since its inception in 1989, the championship has attracted many of the world’s top amateurs who have gone on to achieve success on the pro Tours – most notably Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose and South African major champions Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.