Foreigners swing into our neck of the woods

2011-02-05 18:58

South Africa’s top amateurs will be up against a strong international field in this week’s South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship, with some of the world’s leading amateurs teeing up in Durban.

The highly prestigious championship to be played at Mount Edgecombe Country Club from Tuesday has drawn 23 foreign entries, including 10 members of the Scotland Elite Squad, six leading French amateurs, and players from England, Kenya, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and the United States.

The big names among the foreigners include reigning Scottish amateur champion Michael Stewart, who also finished third in the recent Gauteng North Open; former British Boys’ champion Jordan Findlay; 2009 Scottish Amateur Champion David Law; and Alexander Levy, who was one of the three members of France’s winning Eisenhower Trophy team last year.

“It’s amazing how many top international players this tournament has drawn,” says Brandon Stone, South Africa’s No?2 ranked amateur of whom big things are expected in this championship.

“I think it’s great news for South Africa because it raises the standard of the event and gives us much-needed international experience. The Scots are out here on a two-month training camp and they are using every opportunity to play and prepare for the Walker Cup, so coastal conditions at Mount Edgecombe should suit them.”

The 17-year-old Stone, son of former touring professional Kevin Stone, was named Junior Player of 2010 following his nine top 10 finishes in 14 starts, including six top five finishes and two wins.

He has started 2011 in similar fashion with victory in the Prince’s Grant Invitational in January, lifting him to 75th on the official World Amateur Rankings, and a place in the South African team that faced Scotland in Pretoria last week.

South African No?1 Danie van Tonder and Ruan de Smidt, third on the national rankings, are also expected to make a strong challenge for the title.

“The SA Stroke Play is becoming a sought-after tournament on the international schedule,” says De Smidt. “It’s noticeable that each year more international players enter. A large number of players make the trip to South Africa and still have to qualify. It’s how prestigious the Stroke Play has become and we can benefit greatly from the international competition.”

England’s Gary Wolstenholme was the last foreign winner of the championship in 2002.

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