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SA Open leaves Smith & Stoop with food for thought

12 Jan 2015

Reigning SA Stroke Play champion Jason Smith during the first round of the South African Open Championship; credit Luke Walker

Over the last 12 months, the sun has risen over the careers of amateurs Jason Smith and Hendrikus Stoop, but two sobering days at the 104th South African Open Championship left the Pretoria pair with a lot to chew on.

Stoop played with fellow South African Andy Dill and the relatively unknown Spaniard Borja Virto Astudillo at Glendower Golf Club for two rounds.

He was primed to take as much as possible away from the experience, however, the entire three-ball earned an early departure.

Although none of the six amateurs in the field won the Freddie Tait Cup, the 23-year-old did receive the Amateur Medal as the leading amateur after rounds of 74 and 79.

“I’m definitely glad about the experience, but it hurt to miss the cut by just two strokes,” Stoop said.

“To have to pack your bags and leave when you come so close was gut-wrenching. It came down to two fairways missed or two missed putts and it was hard to accept.”

Stoop was happy that he put Qualifying School on ice for another year.

“The SA Open put the professional game into perspective for me and “I’m glad I’m not one of the guys going to Q-School, because the course could seriously mess with your head,” he said.

“The rough was incredibly tough and you really had to think smart to avoid trouble. I just didn’t execute that good enough to make it.

“My overall game was pretty solid, but I need to work a lot harder on course management. It was an great experience, though, and I’m thrilled that I got a chance to play in such a prestigious tournament.”

As the reigning SA Stroke Play champion, Smith had the company of defending champion Morten Orum Madsen and 2011 South African Open champion Hennie Otto for two days.

The 20-year-old was thrilled at the prospect of stepping outside his comfort zone and playing with two European Tour winners.

“I think it’s good to put yourself in unfamiliar territory, because it’s the best way to improve,” he said.

“I gained a lot from watching how Hennie and Morten managed themselves at a course like Glendower.”

Smith was impressed with Otto’s accuracy and Madsen’s finesse around the greens.

“We probably play a course like this three of four times a year, so this was an amazing opportunity to learn. Hennie barely missed a fairway in the second round. Any time he finished inside 100 meters from the green, he stuck it within four feet of the pin. His accuracy is mind-blowing.

“The same with Morten, who chips unbelievably. Hennie had some horrors on the weekend, but he still tied for 13th. When you can play like that, you can get yourself out of trouble and save your round.”

The TuksSport Golf Academy member registered rounds of 77 and 75 to miss the cut by six.

“I played five practice rounds, but I don’t think 10 practice rounds would have made a difference,” he said.

“I came up well short. I hit the ball really, really well, but I made rookie mistakes. Three double bogeys on the front nine in the first round cost me the tournament.”

Smith did have the satisfaction of seeing his name at the top of the leaderboard after he grabbed a share of the lead at three under with three early birdies.

“I still joked with my caddie that morning that one of my small goals was to get on a leaderboard,” the Irene golfer said. “That was a real gift and a very special moment.

“I felt very comfortable out there with the professionals and I hit the ball really well, but it’s clear that I need to play smarter. I need to really step up my short-game to compete with someone like Hennie.”

The TuksSport Golf Academy player enrolled at the University of Pretoria for a Higher Sport Science degree this year.

“I hope I can take everything I learned to the SA Stroke Play and defend my title,” Smith said. “Staying on the amateur circuit was absolutely the right choice for me.”

Final Result
149 Hendrikus Stoop (Gauteng North) 74 – 75 (T90)
151 Tristen Strydom (Ekurhuleni) 74 – 77 (T113)
152 Jason Smith (Gauteng North) 77 – 75; Gerlou Roux (Western Province) 78 – 74 (T126)
156 Andi Dill (Central Gauteng) 79 – 77 T142
157 Matthew Spacey (Central Gauteng) 75 – 82 (T144) 

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

 

 

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