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Freiburghaus seals rare Northern Amateur double

24 Mar 2017

The Pro Shop Northern Amateur Championship double champion, Jeremy Freiburghaus; credit Hardus van der Merwe / CGGU.

Jeremy Freiburghaus from Switzerland sealed a rare double in The Pro Shop Northern Amateur Championship when he became the first player to win the stroke play qualifying and the match play stages since Scotland’s David Law achieved the double in 2011.

The 20-year-old from Domat-Ems won the Stroke Play Qualifier in a play-off against Albert Venter from Gauteng North on Tuesday. Three days later, he knocked out Matt Saulez from KwaZulu-Natal 3 & 1 to clinch the Match Play final at Randpark Golf Club.

Heading home to start the European season next month, Freiburghaus said he couldn’t be happier.

“I’m leaving South Africa with two trophies, so who wouldn’t be smiling,” he said. “I came out to the KeNako Academy in George since I wanted to compete on the South African amateur circuit during our off-season so I could keep competitive and work on my game.

“With so many international players competing here in the off-season, the standard was incredibly high. You really had to play well to crack a top 10 finish and it felt really good when I tied for seventh in the African Amateur Championship at Leopard Creek.

“I didn’t know what to expect after a three week break, but I didn’t expect the standard to still be this high with most of the international players gone. I mean, I had to shoot 17 under par in the qualifier and beat Albert in a play-off to win and all the matches were tight in the match play.

“South Africa has unbelievably talented golfers and they are fighters. It was definitely worth it to come out and play here. I gained much more from the experience than I ever expected.”

Freiburghaus posted rounds of 66, 69 and 68 and 68 in the Stroke Play Qualifier to tie Venter at 17-under-par 271. The pair returned to the 18th hole at the Firethorn Course and the Swiss golfer came won with par after Venter failed to get up-and-down from the greenside bunker.

“Usually the stroke play winner gets knocked out early on in the match play, so winning both was a really serious goal for me,” said Freiburghaus after crossing the first hurdle with relative ease.

He downed Richard Maree from Gauteng North 4 & 3 in the first round, but said he had to fight for survival against England’s Robin Williams in round two.

“It was a very tight match,” Freiburghaus said. “I was 3-up with three holes to play and I lost 16 and 17, but I managed to knock in the par putt to win at the last hole. My quarter-final match against Dylan Kok also really tight. I won 2 & 1, but Dylan was a tough opponent.

“I broke the deadlock with a birdie at nine and that gave me the boost I needed, but Dylan kept fighting. The only difference was that I holed more putts to go 3-up and on to win.”

Freiburghaus kept his dream alive by beating Central Gauteng’s Eric Wowor 4 & 3 in the semi-final.

“Play was suspended for lightning just after we turned, but I made a solid start in the morning and carried it through for the win and I felt ready for final,” he said.

Saulez from Durban Country Club knocked out Lwazi Gqira from Eastern Province 5 & 4 in the first round, dispatched Jason Rossiter from Central Gauteng 5 & 3 in round two and defeated fellow Shark Malcolm Mitchell 4 & 2 to reach the semi-final.

The 20-year-old faced South Africa’s second highest ranked amateur Kyle McClatchie from Ekurhuleni, but Saulez rode some hot form to win 3 & 1 and he showed no signs of backing down against Freiburghaus.

“Matt was a great opponent, because he kept coming and he never let up,” said Freiburghaus. “He birdied the first three holes and he was 1-up after a bogey at seven.

“I squared the match with a birdie at the ninth. I birdied 10, he dropped 11 and we both birdied 12 and 13. He made another great birdie at the par five for his third birdie in a row, but he had to concede 15, so I went 2-up again.

“We both struggled over the last two holes in the wind. We both bogeyed 16. At 17, I hit a good drive, but my second shot plugged in the lip of the bunker. Matt found the water and he had a tough chip over the bunker with hardly any green to work with. I worked the ball out of the bunker onto the green and he gave me the par, but he missed his par putt and that sealed the win for me.”

McClatchie defeated Wowor 6 & 5 to take third in the third/fourth place play-off.

“We had a really exciting event this year and the standard was undeniably high,” said Central Gauteng Golf Union Golf Operations Manager, Jaco du Plessis.

“One of the things that truly impressed us was to see Herman Loubser and Aubrey Beckley come out this week. Both players had entered for the tournament, but they both earned their cards at the Sunshine Tour’s Qualifying School. Yet, they came to support the event and ended up working for their friends. Herman caddied for Christiaan Basson and Aubrey for Theunis Bezuidenhout. It’s really fantastic to see that kind support from the former GolfRSA National Squad players.”

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