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Langer’s precision course to test All-Africa Champs juniors

28 Apr 2013

The team representing South Africa at this year’s All-Africa Junior Golf Championships: From left to right – Thirston Lawrence, Jason Froneman, Tristen Strydom, Llewellyn van Leeuwen (coach & captain) and James du Preez; credit Dale Boyce

Four of South Africa’s top juniors aim to make it four-in-a-row when they take up the country’s title defence in the prestigious All-Africa Junior Golf Championships in Mauritius on Monday.

However, after having had their first taste of the Bernard Langer-designed 18-hole championship layout at Le Tousssrok on the East Coast, the quartet agree that they will have their job cut out in this year’s event.

The 6,452m, par 72 layout on the island of Ile Aux Cerfs is only accessible by boat. After enjoying the five minute cruise across the lagoon, Mpumalanga golfer Thriston Lawrence said the team was suitably entranced by turquoise water, the sandy beaches and the overall beauty of the awaiting course.

“I think we got over that by the time we reached the second hole,” the reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion said. “We were told that Le Touessrok is rated as the most beautiful course in Mauritius, but also the toughest, and we all agree with that opinion.”

Lawrence, who was part of the victorious SA team that retained their Africa Zone VI Golf Championship title in Namibia last week. Still struggling with a back spasm, the 16-year-old only played three holes during Sunday’s practice round. Having walked the remaining 15 holes while his team mates practiced, Lawrence described the course is tight and tricky.

“Even walking the course is intimidating,” he said. “Langer is German, so I guess you could call this course ‘precision engineered’. You really have to have you’re A-game to score at this course.”

The rest of the team agree.

“You really have to know where you are going on this course,” said Jason Froneman from Ekurhuleni. “You can’t just hit it anywhere. Langer designed this course with a lot of bunkers, water and other hazards, so you really have to plan your way around the layout.”

Gauteng North’s Tristen Strydom, who is known for his fondness to hit the driver, had to wait 17 holes before he was allowed to fire at the fairway. The resulting tee shot pitched just before the swamp guarding the 18th green.

“The driver won’t leave the bag this week,” Strydom said. “It’s all going to be long irons, and we better be accurate. It’s no wonder that the locals told us if you lose less than five balls here, you’ve had a great round.”

James du Preez, also from Gauteng North, said the course will be a real test of patience and accuracy. “It’s different to most courses we play, where we can boom it down the fairways,” Du Preez explained. “This is a course you have to plot and plan and execute well. It will require all our skills, but I think it’s going to be a great test.”

Coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen explained that tactics and execution will be key to the South African team’s title defence.

“Drivers won’t feature here this week, because nearly every hole on this course demands a tee shot of around 230m,” he explained. “Almost all the hole will have second shots between 100m to 130m into the greens, so we need absolute precision off the tee and precision into the greens.”

This is the fourth time this season the Tuksgolf Club and Academies head coach and technical director has accompanied a South African team, but he too expects this week to be the toughest.

“This course has to have the smallest greens I’ve ever seen,” Van Leeuwen said. “The deepest green is 25m and most of them are like upside-down tea cups. They run very true, though, so if you can pitch the ball in the right spot, par is just two putts away.

“I say par, because the course record here is 72 and has been for the last two years. This course is highly seductive with the turquoise water around you, but it is also highly technical. Making pars is going to be the priority this week.

Van Leeuwen let the quartet blow off some steam at the driving range after practice wrapped up and the foursome let rip with their drivers

“It’s a week of firsts for all of us,” he said. “It’s the first time any of us have visited Mauritius, the first time we have to take a boat to a golf course and it will certainly be the first time they play a tournament without using their drivers.”

Last year the South African U-19 Junior Team withstood a spirited final round challenge from Zimbabwe to win the title for a third successive time with a comprehensive 31 shot victory at the Gaborone Golf Club.

“I don’t know that we will win by such a huge margin again, because the two courses can’t be compared,” Van Leeuwen said. “But one thing is for certain; the boys have done the work and they are chomping at the bit to going. They are determined to continue South Arica’s proud history in this event.”

In addition to the defending champions and the host nation, the tournament has also drawn entries from Namibia, Botswana, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Zambia, Madagascar, Tunisia and Reunion.

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