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SA team edges ahead in India

02 Dec 2016

The South African and Indian Mid-Amateur and Senior teams contesting the inaugural Golf Test Series at Royal Calcutta Golf Club in Kolkata, India; credit SAGA.

South Africa’s Senior and Mid-Amateur teams swept into the early lead against India in the opening round of the inaugural Golf Test Series at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club on Friday.

The mid-amateur pairings squared the first match and narrowly lost the second, but the senior pairs saved the day to win both their Foursomes to secure a 2.5 – 1.5 lead for South Africa.

Assistant manager David Younge said the team was pleased to start the Test on a positive note and the mid-amateurs have vowed to step it up in round two.

“It was the first international appearance for Stefan Blommaert and Shaun Stapleton, who were first up against HS Kang and Aditya Khaitan, and the nerves were visible,” said Younge.

“Stefan dispatched a gentle drawing three-wood down the first, but they three-putted two of the first four holes to go on the back foot early on. They managed to level the score through 12 and briefly took the lead at 14, but it was back to all square after another three-putt at 16.

“Kang and Khaitan birdied 17 to take the lead, but they failed to up-and-down for par at the last hole and Stapes and Stefan pounced to square the match with a par.

“Then Gerlou (Roux) and Josef (Fourie) lost 1-down to Simarjeet Singh and Kailash Dhiwar. The Indian pair came out firing and made two birdies in the first four holes. Gerlou and Josef had to dig deep to come back from 2-down. They got it down to one shot through 14, but the Indian pair birdied the 15th to take a two shot lead again.

“The South Africans were dormie down after a short miss at 16, but Gerlou hit a superb approach at 17 and Fourie’s quick downhill left-to-right putt dropped in the middle of the cup to keep them in the match. South Africa was in trouble with their approach at 18, though, and a three-putt cost them the chance to halve the match.”

Despite suffering with a serious bout of bronchitis, Jock Wellington took to the tee alongside Francois le Roux to face Vijay Kumar Bhadana and the experienced Amit Luthra.

“Jock and Francois employed every ounce of patience and experience to knock up par after par after par,” said Younge. “They went 2-up, then 3-up and coasted to the 16th where they wrapped up a 4 & 3 victory for the team.

“Steve (Williams) and Morgan (Phillips) were up last and Steve drew a lot of comments from Anil Jule and Sanjay Kolhatkar as the South African number one ranked senior. They also poked some good-humoured fun at Morgan for holding the club the wrong way around, but once Steve split the fairway with a monster three-wood to get the show on the road, everyone was all-business.

“Morgan holed a 20-footer at the seventh to put South Africa on the attack and a few holes later, they celebrated a comfortable 6 & 5 win.

“The course is superb and in pristine conditions, but the greens are tricky. Only one player from the Indian team is a member of Royal Calcutta, so they were also having their fair share of trouble on the short grass. The greens are grainy and are running very slow making conditions tough for the players.

“The South African players said having our acting president Geoff Taylor on the first tee and dedicating the test to their team mate Mellette Hendrikse really inspired them to make the first round count. It’s onwards and upwards from here.”

Younge added that the team mascot – a lion soft toy named Mafusa – spent the whole day encouraging the team and he was even spotted once or twice greenside making sure the Indians know who is KING.

“Mafusa amused the Indian players to no end and now they have big plans to bring a Bengal Tiger in the second round to fire up their side,” he said.

“There was a lot of banter and teasing, but it was evident that all the players really enjoyed the challenge out there. I am very proud of the way the teams have bonded and pulled together for a common goal. The spirit and goodwill between the teams is special and the Foursomes were played wonderful camaraderie between the two countries.

“In fact, Amit so enjoyed the first day that he cancelled the team dinner and invited everyone to his cousin’s house near the course for an authentic Indian dinner. The cousin happens to be an ex-captain of Royal Calcutta and we are looking forward to creating more wonderful memories with the Indian team.”

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

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