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SA Spirit team primed for US challenge

25 Oct 2013

Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Kim Williams will lead the South African team at the 2013 Spirit Invitational at Whispering Pines near Trinity, Texas from 30 October to 2 November; credit Dale Boyce

South Africa’s Spirit International team are primed for the challenge ahead of their departure for the United States on Friday. The quartet tasked with flying the country’s flag in Texas from 30 October to 2 November include Christiaan Bezuidenhout from Ekurhuleni, Kim Williams from Gauteng North and Central Gauteng’s Louis Taylor and Lara Weinstein.

Bezuidenhout is the country’s reigning number one while Taylor ranks fourth on South African Golf Association’s national standings. Williams and Weinstein rank second and third on the Womens Golf South Africa senior national rankings respectively.

Williams says the team hope to emulate or better the 2005 South African team that claimed the country’s best finish to date at the prestigious biennial international championship.

“That year George Coetzee, Josh Cunliffe, Ashleigh Simon and Kelli Shean finished close second with the United States behind champions England.” Williams said. “We want to do at least as well, or better.”

The 2013 Spirit Invitational has drawn entries from over 20 countries across six continents.

Each country fields a team of four players who compete in three concurrent competitions. The men’s and women’s Four-Ball scores are combined for the International Team scores.

Williams will be honoured as the first Spirit participant to play four championships and having represented South Africa in 2007, 2009 and 2011, she knows the layout only too well.

“The Whispering Pines course is very tough, especially if the wind gets up or in stormy conditions. Birdies are your bread, so if the partners are dovetailing well, or if one player in the team is really on song, you can go low under the Betterball Stroke Play format.”

National coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen, fresh from celebrating South Africa’s seventh consecutive victory in the African Amateur Golf Teams Championship in Swaziland, will accompany the team to Trinity. He, too, believes this South African team can score a podium finish.

“It is never easy to play in the United States, but this team definitely has the ability, the fighting spirit and determination to pull off a top three finish,” he said.

Van Leeuwen is well acquainted with Williams and Weinstein, who are both students at TuksGolf and members of the TuksGolf Women’s team that won the women’s competition at the University of St Andrews 600th Anniversary Invitational.

“The team had to come from behind to win in tough conditions and over four of the most challenging courses in St Andrews, so I know that they have what it takes to win,” said the TuksGolf Club and Academies head coach and technical director.

Van Leeuwen also coaches Taylor and had the opportunity to work with him during three SAGA tests this year - the Ten Nations Cup, Leopard Creek Trophy and Africa Zone VI Golf Championships.

“Louis is a great strategist and incredibly tenacious. He can also do some real damage in this format. At Leopard Creek he went seven under through seven holes from the 10to 16 and that’s the kind of form he needs to take to Whispering Pines.

“I travelled with Christiaan to the Toyata World Junior Golf Team Championship in Japan last year, but over this season, he has matured into a fantastic competitor. When he starts pouring in the putts, he doesn’t stop, so I look forward to him making it rain in Texas.”

Former South Africans who have flown the flag at the Spirit include Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Sunshine Tour winner Coetzee, former world number one amateur Dylan Frittelli, rookie professional Haynd Porteous, two-time European Ladies Tour winner Simon and Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play and Match Play champions Williams, Yvette du Plessis and Iliske Verwey.

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