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SA duo tucked in foreign logjam at SA Stroke Play

08 Feb 2017

Second round leader Oliver Gillberg and SA pair Brandon Cloete and Andre Nel; credit Pieter Els

Southern Cape duo Brandon Cloete and Andre Nel shared the top 10 at the South African Stroke Play Championship with a Swede, an Irish pair, a Scot, three Frenchmen and an Englishman after second round action wrapped up on a soggy Wednesday in George.

Cloete caught the brunt of the duck weather at Kingswood Golf Estate with an early morning start, but the 25-year-old from Pezula produced the only flawless round – a four-under-par 66 – that earned him a share of second at seven under.

Cloete has former Irish Boys champion Robin Dawson and compatriot John Ross Galbraith for company and the trio sit one shot adrift from Sweden’s Oliver Gillberg. Tramore’s Dawson matched Gillberg’s 65, while Galbraith from Whitehead posted a 66.

Joint overnight leader Edgar Catherine dropped shots at his last two holes and the Frenchman slipped to fifth after signing for a 68, while reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion Craig Ross from Scotland carded a 66 to move into sixth at five under.

Kingswood local Nel was five under through 13, but a double bogey at the par four 14th proved costly and the KeNako Academy player signed for 69 to tie for seventh with French pair Pierre Pineau and Frédéric LaCroix, who carded 67 and 68 respectively. Dan Brown from England closed with a 67 to round out the top 10 leaderboard at three under 137.

The cut to 65 and ties fell at four-over-par 144, leaving 74 players to contest the final two rounds.

Gillberg laid an early marker for the lead with a birdie-birdie start.

The 20-year-old from Orebro piled on more gains at 13, 18, four, five and eight to offset a drop on each loop.

The Swede has been in the Southern Cape for five days with the Swedish Mens Squad and arrived on the third of February. The wet weather was not exactly what he expected on his second visit to South Africa. “The last time I was here was on a holiday with my family about 12 years ago, and it was always sunny,” said Gillberg. “The rain was a bit of a surprise this morning. It definitely changed my game plan, especially club selection, because the air was quite heavy and the ball didn’t fly as far.

“But the rain did soften up the greens, so you could get a bit more aggressive with the irons. These greens are fantastic, but the grain is tricky. It can change two or three times on a 25 metre putt, so it’s best to get the close to the pin. Inside eight feet, you can hole them.”

The skies opened early on Wednesday morning just as Marquette University graduate Cloete started his second trip around Kingswood.

“I played really well tee to green, which is how you score here and I just stayed patient,” he said.

“Oliver was holing everything he looked at and that kept me focused. I tried to keep pace with him without chasing birdies. The putter worked well and helped me with crucial par-saves where it counted to keep going. Despite the rain, I had a great day and hopefully I can keep it going.”

Dawson was delighted that his third start in the South African Golf Association’s flagship event got off without hiccups.

“The previous two times at Port Elizabeth and Blue Valley I had one bad round and I finished in the deep twenties, so to be within reach of the lead after two rounds is great for me,” he said.

The 21-year-old is in his final year at Maynooth University on a golf scholarship sponsored by Major champion Padraig Harrington. He is studying Equine Business Management, but Dawson declined to hedge any bets on back-to-back Irish success.

“It was fantastic for Ireland when Jack (Hume) won last year, but I’m not a betting man,” he laughed. “We’ll take it one shot at the time, but there are at least two of us now within a shot of Oliver, so that does double our chances.”

Ross claimed the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship title at neighbouring George Golf Club last year and is hopes he can go distance again with two rounds remaining.

“I struggled a little when I came back to South Africa to tee it up in the BMW SA Open, but the game has been coming along nicely,” said Ross. “I just let the one shot slip today, otherwise it was a solid day. I am striking it well, keeping it in the fairways and the putter is working well, too.

“It’s nice to have such a tight leaderboard, because it gives everyone a little boost to try harder. The key to scoring at Kingswood is keeping a clean card; that’s how you make a low number.”

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of Golf RSA, a SAGA and WGSA Not-For-Profit company

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