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Sheard goes wire-to-wire at SA Mid-Amateur

09 May 2013

Western Province golfer Greg Sheard claimed a wire-to-wire victory at the South African Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship, sponsored by Volvo, at Stellenbosch Golf Club; credit Abri du Plessis

Nerves of steel, a putting tip from defending champion Neil Homann and the calming influence of his dad on the bag helped Stellenbosch golfer Greg Sheard put the finishing touches on a wire-to-wire victory in the South African Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Stellenbosch Golf Club on Friday.

The local favourite completed his victory march with a final round even-par 72 at the Winelands course for a six-under-par 282 winning total and a four stroke victory over Western Province stable mate, Cameron Johnston.

Johnstone signed for a 72 to finish in sole second ahead of Grant Wood from Central Gauteng and Ekurhuleni’s Jaco Rall and Graeme Watson. Wood, the champion in 2010, carded a closing 72, Watson returned a 76 and Rall launched to a share of third with a closing 69.

During the prize giving ceremony Sheard told his fellow competitors that he made some drastic changes to his life in March.

“I changed my career and set myself new goals,” he said. “The SA Mid-Amateur title was among the new goals and I practiced really hard ahead of the tournament. I must have played eight or nine practice rounds and I worked really hard on my game.

“This just goes to show that when you really want something, you can make it happen.”

Sheard said his father Alan and a putting tip from Homann, who won the title at Vaal de Grace last year, deserved acknowledgement for his feat.

“I also had my dad Alan, who is 72, on the bag all four days,” he said. “He is a wise, old man, with a lot of patience and experience and he was great keeping me focussed and positive.

“Neil was staying with us and we were having a chat about great putters. He reckons that Andrew McLardy is one of the best putters in the world and he showed me how McLardy opens his hands just before he putts. I tried it and the putts just started to drop. The greens this week were extremely difficult and the tip really paid off for me.”

Sheard, from neighbouring De Zalze Golf Club, certainly gave his supporters plenty to cheer about over the four days of the prestigious Volvo-sponsored event.

The 39-year-old took command with an opening three-under-par 69 and never relinquished his lead, following with rounds of 70-71-72. Sheard who launched his title challenge with a one shot lead over Watson, the country’s leading mid-amateur and a three-time winner this season. He bogeyed the first, fifth and ninth holes, but erased the deficit with birdies at the sixth, eighth and 14th holes.

“It was tough sharing the first tee with Graeme and Woodsie and I was a bit nervous at the start of the tournament,” said the Western Province Mid-Amateur captain.

“I hit good drive, but drove a five-iron into the grass bunker on the right. I goofed the trap shot and chipped to about 12-feet and made the putt. It was a good five, because it could have been a horrible start.

“I settled down and then it was just a matter of holding my nerve and playing my own game. think the seventh was the pivotal hole. I hit a great drive, but I pushed my four-iron into the bunker. Woodsie was on the green for two and went for the eagle, but he three-putted for par.

Graeme hit his second shot right, and his third ran off the green. He had to up-and-down for six while my my trap shot settled at 12-foot and I boxed the putt.

“It turned into a winning hole for me and that really boosted my confidence.”

Sheard has been playing golf competitively for nearly 20 years and was thrilled to finally lift a national title.

“The last four days have been very stressful,” he said. “It’s stressful up front. I’ve won a lot of inter-provincials and team events, but this is my first individual victory. I can’t even describe my joy.”

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