Sunshine Tour

Freddie Tait Cup beckons at 110th SA Open

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Casey Jarvis
Casey Jarvis
GolfRSA

Eight amateurs will tee off on day one of the 110th South African Open Championship at the Gary Player Country Club this week.

For most South African amateurs and top SA professionals from across the world, the SA Open is the Holy Grail.

This year, an exciting line-up that includes four past champions, world No 70 Dylan Frittelli and world No 40 Christiaan Bezuidenhout, the winner of last week's Alfred Dunhill Championship.

And while the amateurs will not be eligible for any part of the R19.5 million on offer to those who make the 36-hole cut, there is more than just pride on the line in teeing it up in the world's second oldest national championship.

The historic Freddie Tait Cup beckons for the highest-placed amateur who survives the cut.

These eight young men need no further encouragement to step up to claim their place in SA Open folklore.

Leading the challenge is Casey Jarvis from State Mines, who already etched his name in the South African golfing record books this year.

In February, Jarvis broke a 51-year-old record held by Dale Hayes to become the youngest winner of the South African Stroke Play Championship. At the age of 16 years, six months and 17 days Jarvis claimed a nine-stroke victory on 25-under 263, having fired rounds of 66, 65, 67 and 65 at Randpark Golf Club.

A week later, the Boksburg teenager sealed his spot in the SA Open with a comfortable 7&6 victory over Scotland's James Wilson in the SA Amateur Championship at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington.

At the end of October, the South African Golf Association awarded the four remaining exemptions to GolfRSA National Squad members Kyle de Beer, Yurav Premlall, Christo Lamprecht and Sam Simpson.

De Beer, third on the Open Amateur rankings, goes into the SA Open on the back of four successive top-10s, including a runner-up finish in the EP Stroke Play.

Glendower's Premlall, at the age of 15 years and five months, sealed a hat-trick of titles in 2020 with his November wins in the Central Gauteng Open and Harry Oppenheimer Trophy. The in-form teen ranks fourth in the GolfRSA Open Amateur standings.

Lamprecht, the 2017 SA Amateur champion, took time out in the 2019 season to focus on academics. After the George golfer scored seven distinctions in his matric final, he made a strong return in his second Junior Presidents Cup appearance.

Lamprecht reached the quarter-final in the SA Amateur and won the Cape Province Open before the lockdown. Recent top-six finishes in the EP Stroke Play and Harry Oppenheimer Trophy boosted Lamprecht to sixth in the rankings.

Simpson lifted the Proudfoot Trophy as the winner of the SA Amateur qualifier, and backed up his EP Stroke Play win in November with a fourth place finish in the Silver Salver and a top 10 in the Harry Oppenheimer Trophy. He starts the week ranked seventh.

Christiaan Maas and Jordan Duminy - also members of the squad - and Massimo Mbetse, a South African attending the University of South Florida, booked their starts in the SA Open via the qualifying rounds, which saw nearly 300 hopefuls fight it out for 12 spots across three courses.

Maas, who has been in red-hot form since golf re-opened, racking up five titles. The 17-year-old Els for Autism ambassador celebrated a 12-shot victory on 27-under at Irene Country Club, which boosted Maas to 10th in the rankings.

Duminy and Mbetse both secured their berths at the world-class field at the Gary Player Country Club in a six-man play-off for four spots in the Modderfontein qualifier.

Like Lamprecht and Simpson, Duminy also did duty on the International Team in the 2019 Junior Presidents Cup. Later that year, he won Nomads SA Boys U-17 champion. He climbed to fifth in the GolfRSA Open Amateur standings in November following a play-off win in the Bobby Locke Invitational.

The potential surprise packet in this year's amateur line-up is unheralded Mbetse.

The 21-year-old US-based golfer held the outright lead on seven-under at Modderfontein through 14 holes before he stumbled home with bogeys on 15 and 17 and a triple bogey finish for a two-under 70 that landed him in the play-off.

Mbetse learned his golf at the old King David Golf Club in Cape Town and when the family moved the United States eight years ago, he enrolled at the prestigious IMG Academy.

Mbetse spent the lockdown with his parents in South Africa and, just before the SA Open qualifier, he tied for sixth in the Bobby Locke Invitational at Parkview Golf Club.

The amateur to lift the Freddie Tait Cup at January's SA Open was former SA No 1 and GolfRSA National Squad member Jayden Schaper.

Only 7 players have won the Freddie Tait Cup and subsequently lifted the SA Open title as professionals, with Dale Hayes the first in 1969 and Branden Grace adding his name to this exclusive list in 2020.

Dale Hayes (1969 at Durban Country Club / 1976 at Houghton Golf Club)

Tony Johnstone ZIM (1978 at Mowbray Golf Club / 1984 at Houghton Golf Club)

Ernie Els (1989 at Glendower Golf Club / 1992 at Houghton Golf Club)

Hennie Otto (1997 at Glendower Golf Club / 2011 at Serengeti Golf Estates)

Trevor Immelman (1998 at Durban Golf Club / 2003 at Erinvale Golf Club)

Branden Grace (2007 at Humewood / 2020 at Randpark Golf Club)

Brandon Stone (2012 at Serengeti Golf Estates / 2016 at Glendower)

- GolfRSA

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