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SA close the door on rivals at All-Africa Champs

01 May 2013

Mpumalanga’s Thriston Lawrence has five reasons to smile after his course record five-under-par 67 helped South Africa to a 54 shot lead after the third round of the All-Africa Junior Golf Championships in Mauritius; credit Dale Boyce

The South African team opened up a yawning gap on their nearest challengers in the third round of this year’s All-Africa Junior Golf Championships and will take a massive shot lead into Thursday’s final round at Le Touessrok in Mauritius.

The South Africans dipped under par for the first time in the competition and Thriston Lawrence, Tristen Strydom and James du Preez combined for a five-under-par 211 that virtually guarantees the defending champions their fourth consecutive victory in this prestigious championship.

Topping the leaderboard at nine over 657, the South African quartet is 54 shots clear of Zimbabwe and 57 shots clear of Uganda.

For a second successive day, Mpumalanga’s Lawrence set the tone for the defending champions.

The 16-year-old negotiated the par-72 island layout of the Bernard Langer-designed course in five under 67, dropping just a one shot and betting his own one-day old course record 70 by three shots.

Jason Froneman’s putting woes continued and the Ekurhuleni golfer signed for a non-counting 74, but Gauteng North’s James du Preez and Tristen Strydom carded rounds of 71 and 73 respectively.

Meanwhile the Zimbabweans blasted their way past Uganda with a third round 233 to finish on 711, with the Ugandans finishing third on 721 after posting a 246.

SA coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen was thrilled with the team’s effort.

“The team began the third round with a 32 shot lead, but they still played like they led by just a few shots,” he said. “The guys took absolutely nothing for granted. All four boys are committed to produce the best result possible for the team.

“Now that they have come to grips with this tough layout, they are playing to their strengths and it shows in their scores.”

The day was not without its frustrations, though.

Lawrence chipped in for eagle at the fourth and made three birdies on the trot, but missed a two-footer for par at the eighth. He left another two-footer short for birdie at the treacherous par-five ninth and turned in four-under.

“I had three more six-foot chances for birdie at the last three holes, but I missed them all,” the reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion said. “Nevertheless, it was a solid round and I’m happy to have gone below par two days in a row.”

Froneman, who led the overall scoring with a 73 in the first round, had another frustrating day with the short stick.

“I hit 14 greens in regulation but I just couldn’t convert for birdies,” the 17-year-old Free State & Northern Cape champion said. “I had too many lip-outs and horse shoes to count and it has been really frustrating because I’m hitting the ball so well.

“We have 18 holes left, so hopefully the putter heats up for all of us and we can all finish under par.”

Du Preez and Strydom also had their fair share of trouble.

One under through 17, Strydom hit a perfect drive at the par-four 18th, but his tee shot pitched on a fairway sprinkler and bounced nearly 40 meters left. “I found the ball on the edge of the hazard and I had a very tough shot to the green,” the 16-year-old said. “The pin was on the front ledge, though, so I went for it and paid the price with a double bogey. You just can’t take chances with this course, or you pay the price. I just have to keep the bogeys off my card tomorrow.”

Du Preez’s problem may take a little longer to resolve, though.

In his socks, the 17-year-old Pretoria player measures six foot seven (2.05m) and the lanky has been finding his height a problem when it comes to distance control.

“James is very tall and generates incredible club head speed,” Van Leeuwen said. “He hits it beautifully on target, but it often flies over the pin because he is so strong. We are working on this and he has had some success in the last two days.

“This one will take a little time. I just hope he stops growing now.”

ROUND THREE TEAM LEADERBOARD

657 South Africa 230-216-211

711 Zimbabwe 240-238-233

721 Uganda 244-231-246

728 Tunisia 248-253-227

730 Zambia 244-244-242

735 Kenya 252-246-237

736 Reunion 248-244-244

747 Namibia 243-257-247

755 Swaziland 267-247-241

777 Botswana 261-250-266

779 Mauritius 269-263-247

878 Madagascar 293-294- 291

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