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SA team rally for early lead at All-Africa Champs

29 Apr 2013

Jason Froneman from Ekurhuleni fired an opening 73 to help South Africa top the first round leaderboard at the 2013 All Africa Junior Golf Championship in Mauritius; credit Dale Boyce

South Africa’s top juniors rallied over the final four holes at the Le Touessrok course in Mauritius to take the first round lead in the prestigious All-Africa Junior Golf Championships on Monday.

Ekurhuleni’s Jason Froneman lead the way with an unchallenged one-over-par 73, while Gauteng North’s Tristen Strydom produced a 78 and Thriston Lawrence from Mpumalanga contributed a seven over 79. Gauteng North’s James du Preez carded nine over 81, but with the best three scores to count, the home side hit the front with a team score of 14-over-par 230.

The SA quartet lead by 10 shots from Zimbabwe and 13 shots from third-placed Namibia on 243.

Like most of the players from the 12 nations competing in this year’s event, the South Africans also struggled to come to terms with the perplexing layout of the Bernard Langer-designed 18-hole championship course and the blustery South-Easterly conditions did nothing to ease their pain.

The home side collectively turned in 15 over and their combined score was at 26 over par through 14 holes when coach, Llewellyn van Leeuwen, stepped in, slowed the lads down and got them back on a well-laid game plan.

“It looked like we were heading for a major crash, so I had a little chat with each of the players” Van Leeuwen said. “I have to say, I’m incredibly proud of the way they focussed to finish strong to give us the lead and a fighting chance to win this championship for a fourth successive time.

“We had a good session after the round and I’m quietly confident that the boys will continue to improve in the tournament, especially after the baptism of fire they survived in the first round.”

Lawrence, Du Preez and Strydom all double-bogeyed the opening 359m par-four, courtesy of wayward drives, and Froneman paid a two-shot price at the par-three third when his tee shot got wet.

The 17-year-old Kempton Park golfer also dropped a shot at the par-five ninth after his approach spun off the elevated, upside-down teacup green and he failed to up and down.

After four lip-outs on the front nine, a 12-footer for birdie at the par-four 10th got the teenager going and he drilled home two more 12-footers at the 14th and 15th to sign off on the round of the day.  Froneman’s 73 was the lowest round of the day and four shots better than his nearest challenger, Daniel Baguma from Uganda.

“I would be lying if I said I’m happy, because it should have been a 68,” Froneman. “I played solid tee to green golf, but if the putts had dropped on the front nine, it would have been a great round. There’s still three rounds to go, though, so I might get a round under par.

“The key to scoring here is patients and executing your shots to perfection. You can’t get caught up on bad shots, because you have to keep your focus.”

Lawrence missed an eight-foot putt for eagle at the par-five fourth and also looked pretty solid from this point until a double drop at the ninth and a triple bogey the 14th after a lost ball. The reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion regrouped, went back to the game plan and parred his way home.

“I had 13 pars and three bad holes,” the reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion said. “Overall not a bad round, but you just can’t afford to lose focus; not for a minute, or you pay the price, like I did.”

Strydom birdied the second, but his score ballooned to five over par after signing for a nine at the fourth after his second shot hit a car path and he failed to get up and down.

The 16-year-old Pretoria Country Club golfer dropped another shot on the sixth, but birdied the tough ninth to turn in four over. Strydom’s score climbed to nine over after a drop at 10, double bogey at 11 and another drop at the 12th, but he redeemed himself with back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 16th. A bogey at 17 and par at 18 left him signing for a 78.

“It was an up-and-down round and the one thing I learned was that you can’t afford to lose focus for a minute around this course,” he said. “I know I can play this course better. You have to execute the game plan. You can’t just go for shots around this course.”

It was of little consolation to Du Preez that, while he shot a huge number by his own standards, his score was among the lowest for the day.

“It was too much of a mixed bag,” the 17-year-old Pretoria Country Club player said. “Two birdies, six bogeys, a double and a triple; that’s just not good enough. It was a tough day at the office, but I know I can do better. No lapses of concentration; you have to focus on every shot.

“But I really enjoy this track. It’s very challenging and different to the courses we usually play. You really have to think your way around this course. It’s a great challenge.”

FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD:

230 South Africa

240 Zimbabwe

243 Namibia

244 Zambia; Uganda

248 Tunisia

248 Reunion

252 Kenya

261 Botswana

267 Swaziland

269 Mauritius

293 Madagascar

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