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Local hope Sheard tied for SA Mid-Amateur lead

08 May 2013

Overnight leader Greg Sheard held on for a share of the second round lead at the South African Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship, sponsored by Volvo, at Stellenbosch Golf Club; credit WPGU

The setting sun at Stellenbosch Golf Club cast an intriguing shadow over the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the SA Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship, sponsored by Volvo, on Wednesday.

While overnight leader Greg Sheard held on for a share of the lead with a hard-earned two-under-par 70, former champion Grant Wood from Central Gauteng stamped his authority on the tournament with a five under 67 to join the Western Province player in pole position.

However, tied at five-under-par 139, the pair can barely afford to get comfortable with the country’s number one ranked mid-amateur, Graeme Watson, lurking just one shot behind.

Despite a slight stumble with back-to-back bogeys on the back nine, the Ekurhuleni golfer came home in 69 strokes to finish alone in third, one shot ahead of East London’s John Kew, who signed for 70.

Milnerton’s Cameron Johnstone signed for a 70 to finish four off the pace on 143, while Gauteng North’s Pieter Cooper Tyrol Auret from Ekurhuleni and Giles Buchanan from the Western Province carded respective rounds of 69, 74 and 74 to tie for sixth at level par.

Sheard had to overcome a stumbling start for a second successive day, but the local favourite did well to erase a double bogey at the first with birdies at the third, fifth and eighth to turn in one under.

“I was in the trees after my tee shot and all I could to was chip out and take the punishment,” he explained. “The three-putt left me a little unsettled. I drove my tee shot at the second into the trees again, but I managed to save par. But the three birdies settled my nerves and I hit it pretty well for the rest of the round.”

The Western Province Mid-Amateur captain bogeyed the 10th, but recovered with a birdie at the next hole and got himself back into the red numbers at the par-five 12th. “I hit driver, seven-iron to eight feet and knocked the putt in for eagle,” Sheard said. “That really gave my round a boost. I got unlucky at the 17th, though, when my second shot hit a tree and ricocheted backwards. I actually did well to make a five at that par-four.

“It was a much better round for me overall. I was hitting it better and the putter behaved well, too.”

But Sheard is taking nothing for granted with 36 holes to go.

“When you’re tied for the lead with Grant and you have Graeme breathing down your neck, you can’t afford to get complacent. There is still a lot of golf to be played, but it’s great to be in the mix.”

Watson, already a three-time winner this season, was happy to move within striking distance of the leaders, but said he had some work to do.

“I definitely hit it better and I putter better as well, but I still need to drive it straighter,” he said. “I missed too many fairways by a just a few feet and the rough is very sandy. If I can stick it on the fairways, I’d be a lot more comfortable against the opposition.”

The Ebotse golfer birdied the second hole, but dropped successive shots at the fifth and sixth holes.

“I ran a three-footer for birdie past the hole and messed up the return at the fifth,” he explained. “At the sixth, I hit a great tee shot but mailed the approach over the green and couldn’t up and down to save par. To silly bogeys, really.”

Watson retaliated with back-to-back birdies to reach the turn in one under 35 and came home in 33 after birdies at the 15th and 17th holes for his 69.

“Greg obviously knows this course and he is proving a tough competitor,” Watson said.

“Grant came into some form recently and as a former champion, he has been in this situation before and knows how to handle it. There are a couple of guys threatening behind, as well, so at this stage, it’s still anyone’s title to win.”

The halfway cut was set at 13-over-par 157, leaving 68 players to contest the final two rounds.

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