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Top amateurs called up to fly SA flag

29 Aug 2011

Brandon Stone - SA's current number 1 amateur

A dozen of South Africa’s top amateur golfers will be flying the South African flag at three international golf events this October and November.

The country’s top four ranked players – Brandon Stone, Haydn Porteous, Ruan De Smidt and Jared Harvey – will represent South Africa at The Four Nations Cup and Shirley Open in New Zealand while Graham van der Merwe, CJ du Plessis, Riekus Nortje and Daniel Hammond will do duty here at home in the African Amateur Golf Teams Championships (AAGTC).

Then Porteous and De Smidt will pair up with Kim Williams and Illiska Verwey to challenge the world’s best at The Spirit International Amateur Golf Tournament in Texas.

“The Four Nations Cup replaced the Southern Cross and is an entirely new event on the international golf calendar,” Colin Burger, president of South African Golf Association (SAGA), explained. “The tournament will pit the teams from New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and South Africa against each other in a team competition over four days, with the best three scores counting each day. The best amateurs from four leading golf nations will be competing, providing our players with a fantastic opportunity to test themselves on the international stage.”

Following the inaugural Four Nations Cup at The Hills near Arrowtown from 13-16 October, the South African quartet will travel to Christchurch to tee it up in the Shirley Open at the Christchurch Golf Club from 21-23 October.

“For many years, the Shirley Open has been one of the premier amateur golf tournaments in New Zealand, but since it joined the Charles Tour (a joint initiative by New Zealand Golf and the NZ Professional Golfers’ Association offering 72-hole competition for New Zealand professionals and leading amateurs) in 2008, it offers an even more important playing opportunity for the boys,” Burger said.

“The best of New Zealand's young professionals compete against top amateurs in four rounds of stroke play and it gives our players another superb opportunity to gain international experience.”

Back home Van Der Merwe, Du Plessis, Nortje and Hammond will compete against the top golfing nations in Africa from 18-21 October.

“The African Amateur Golf Teams Championships historically draws teams from 15 to 20 countries,” said Burger. “Alongside the All-Africa Amateur Golf Championships, it is one of the most popular team events on the continent. We expect a battle on all fronts as the top teams face off at Lake Club Benoni, and it will be a great test for our young players.”

The Spirit was established in 2001 and is held biennially, alternating with the World Amateur Team Championships. There are five competitions run concurrently over the 72 holes of best ball competition, including International Team (combined best ball of the men's and women's teams), Men's Team, Women's Team, Men's Individual and Women's Individual. This year’s competition will be played at Whispering Pines Golf Club near Trinity in Texas from 2-5 November.

Burger said he would love to see the South African team combine to land the country’s first gold in this event. “There are 20 teams participating from six continents and this year China, Japan and Ireland have also been invited,” he said. “This will no doubt raise the very high standard even more, but we are taking the best possible combination to Texas and I am confident there is a gold medal waiting for us there.” “We are blessed with such a depth of talent at our disposal that we can offer so many of our top amateurs the chance to gain international experience.”

Burger will accompany Porteous and De Smidt to Texas while team managers to New Zealand and the AAGTC are still to be confirmed.

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