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Smith ready to fire at Africa Amateur

09 Feb 2016

Jason Smith; credit Ernest Blignault.

Just four days on from a narrow defeat in the South African Stroke Play Championship, Jason Smith is looking to avenge that loss by becoming the first champion of the African Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Leopard Creek Golf Estate in Mpumalanga this week. 

Smith will lead the country’s promising talents against a strong cast of international challengers in the inaugural tournament, which gets underway from 10-13 February.

Smith was pipped at the post on Friday after Irishman Jack Hume fired flawless eight under 64 to close out a thrilling one stroke victory at Blue Valley Golf and Country Club.

The 2014 SA Stroke Play champion had to settle for a share of second with Irishman Stuart Grehan, but the blow just strengthened Smith’s resolve to come out fighting in the 72-hole championship that tees off on Wednesday.

“I feel good coming into this week,” said the 21-year-old Tshwane golfer.

“I played solid the whole week at Blue Valley, but it was just not enough to stop the final round charge from Jack. My ball striking is good and I’m hitting my irons well. Leopard Creek has some of the best greens in the country, so I’m sure my putter will enjoy the week, too.

“The way that I am playing right now I feel very confident. I just need to keep working on it, keep working on the process, and keep trying to improve.

“Every course has a way it needs to be played, and this layout demands accuracy off the tee. Course management and positioning is key to scoring well here. I’ve formulated a game plan and I’m looking forward to start the challenge.”

The tournament also features a team element and the chance for two South African teams to face off against eight international rivals in the Africa Amateur Team Championship.

South Africa’s number one ranked Tristen Strydom will lead the Senior RSA team alongside Marco Steyn, Herman Loubser and James du Preez, who closed with a 65 at Blue Valley to finish fourth overall in the SA Stroke Play on Friday.

Reigning Nomads SA Boys U-19 Match Play champion Ross Sinclair, 2016 Dr Bam winner Dylan Naidoo, Luca Filippi and Anuerin Gounden will star for the Junior RSA team.

The 54-hole competition will run concurrently with the main stroke play event and the South Africans will hope to stave off teams from will England, France, India, Kenya, Mauritius, Scotland, Switzerland and Zimbabwe.

“The English, French and Scottish players competed in the SA Stroke Play last week,” Strydom said.

“They showed their hand at Blue Valley and we know that they have some tough competitors that could go quite low at Leopard Creek. The other teams are a mystery and we will only know what they will bring to the table after the first round.

“It is really important to us that both our teams to do well in the first African Amateur. Our biggest goal is to play for each other in both teams and to make every shot count. I believe that we have the depth of talent to take on the international teams and perform well this week.”

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

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