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National breakthrough for Saulez in St Francis Bay

29 Jun 2015

2015 Nomads National Order of Merit winner Matt Saulez from KwaZulu-Natal with St Francis Links CEO Jeff Clause; credit SAGA.

Matt Saulez was convinced that he blew his chances in the Nomads National Order Merit Coastal after a bit of bushwhacking on the back nine at St Francis Links, but the KwaZulu-Natal player hung tough and produced the goods to seal a maiden victory on the South African Golf Association’s national junior circuit on Monday.

Tied for the lead heading down the 18th hole, Saulez boxed a decisive four-footer for birdie to sign for a one-under-par 71 and a one stroke victory on one-over-par 145 over reigning Nomads SA Boys U-19 Stroke Play champion Dylan Naidoo.

Saulez trailed overnight leader Herman Loubser by two strokes after an opening 74.

The 18-year-old Gowrie Farm golfer birdied one, five and eight and reached the turn in one under, but nearly ruined his chances with back-to-back visits to the penal rough that guards the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout.

“I hit my tee-shot left into bush at 12 and had to take an unplayable, resulting in a penalty drop,” he explained.

“I walked off with bogey and, at the very next hole, I hit my tee shot into the bush on the right and made another bogey. At that stage, I had no idea what the scores were or what was happening with Dylan up ahead.

“I just kept my head down and kept grinding, but when I bogeyed 16, I really thought that was the end of my run. I’m looking at a 15-footer for birdie and I ended up three-putting for bogey. I focussed so much on the line that I didn’t pay any attention to the pace.”

Saulez learned that Naidoo had set the clubhouse target at 146 when he reached the 18th tee.

“I knew I had to birdie the last hole to avoid a play-off,” Saulez said.

“I hit a solid two-iron down the fairway and had 155 meters to the pin. I took a seven-iron into the green because the win was off the left, hit it to four feet and holed the putt.

“Everyone always says that getting that first win under the belt is the big thing. After knocking for such a long time, I am really, really pleased that I was able to pull it off when the chips were down.”

Naidoo lagged six strokes off the pace after an opening 76 and was seven over at the turn.

He birdied 10 and 12 and holed out for an albatross at the par-five 13 to close the gap on Saulez, but gave two shots right back with successive bogeys at 14 and 15.

The TuksSport Golf Academy player finished with three successive pars for a 70 and sole second ahead of Martin Vorster from the Louis Oosthuizen Academy in Southern Cape, who finished in third on 147 with rounds of 74 and 73.

145 Matt Saulez 74 71
146 Dylan Naidoo 76 70
147 Martin Vorster 74 73
148 Dylan Mostert 77 71
149 Marco Steyn 75 74
150 Wilco Nienaber 77 73; Ruan Pretorius 77 73; Ruben Coetzer 75 75; Tristan Hamilton 73 77
151 Kyle De Beer 76 75

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.


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