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Scotland Take Leopard Trophy In South Africa

by Colin Callander - February 24, 2014

Scotland claimed a notable success when it defeated South Africa by 14-10 in the annual Leopard Trophy international match at Leopard Creek.

The two sides were level at 6-6 after the opening series of foursomes and singles but the young Scottish squad then defeated the home side 4-0 in the second foursomes before maintaining that advantage after sharing the final singles 4-4.

The result marked just the second time that Scotland has won the trophy since the match was inaugurated in 2010 with South Africa winning on that occasion and then again in both 2011 and 2013.

Scotland’s sole previous success had come in 2012 when the celebrations were extended after Leven Golf Society’s Brian Souter defeated rising 18-year-old South African star Brandon Stone by 2 and 1 in the 36-hole final of the subsequent Sanlam South African Amateur Championship at Mowbray Golf Club in Cape Town.

This year’s Scottish Leopard Trophy team comprised an amalgam of eight players from its National Men’s, Transitional and Boys’ squads but despite their relatfive lack of experience they claimed what transpired to be a decisive four-point lead when Bradley Neil and Daniel Young, Conner Syme and Ben Kinsley, Ewen Ferguson and Jamie Savage, and Graeme Robertson and Scott Gibson all emerged with victories in the second series of foursomes.

In the singles, reigning Scottish Boys’ champion Neil lost the opening match by one hole against Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Young squared things up when he beat South African No. 1 Zander Lombard by 3 and 2 and further victories by Syme over Louis Taylor and Savage against NJ Arnoldi plus halves from Kinsley and Robertson sealed a fine success for the visiting side.

“We went into the singles 10-6 down, but the team was motivated to come back again and fought incredibly hard,” said SA National coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen.

“We managed to win three games and halve two others, but in the end, we fell short of the target. Hats off to the Scots, though, because this was undoubtedly one of the strongest teams to ever come to South Africa and our players thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.”

Scottish National Coach Ian Rae was delighted by how his six rookies and two more experienced players had performed.

“The new caps all performed well and this bodes well for the future of Scottish golf,” he said.

“We are obviously delighted with the victory, but I don’t think one should lose sight of the experience that both teams gained here this week. For us, to come out to a magnificent course like this each year and to expose our players to this type of course, the grass and weather is invaluable.

“But for the South Africans the chance to play against international competition is equally important. Irrespective of the result, and who lifted the magnificent Leopard Trophy, both teams are winners.”

The Leopard Trophy forms part of the Scots’ annual eight-week winter training programme, which is supported by Leopard Creek proprietor Johann Rupert and Aberdeen Asset Management.

After the test match, Neil and Robertson headed home to Scotland but the rest of the Scottish squad travelled to Hermanus Golf Club, where they are competing in this week’s Sanlam South African Amateur.

England’s Toby Tree should be full of confidence heading into the South African Amateur.

The 19-year-old from Worthing warmed up for the championship by claiming a wire-to-wire victory against the professionals at an IGT Pro Tour event at Ruimsig Country Club near Johannesburg, where he carded rounds of 66, 69 and 68 to finish two shots ahead of Northern Ireland’s John McClean on 13-under 203.

Tree decided to play in two IGT Series events because he was unhappy with his form while finishing tied sixth at the recent South African Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

“I wasn’t hitting the ball badly but my game just felt a bit disjointed,” he said. “I decided to play the two IGT Series events because I felt I needed to get something going if I wanted to challenge at Hermanus.

“The last two weeks have deinitely added to my confidence,” he added. “The competition was stiff, the course setup at both events was tough and it was a great way to get into shape. I’m definitely going down to the Cape with a strong game.”

Tree was not the only GB&I international to hit form last week because in America former British Ladies’ champion Stephanie Meadow, from Northern Ireland, carded rounds of 75, 68 and 68 to share individual honours with Purdue’s Aurora Kim at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic college tournament at Rio Mar Country Club, San Juan.

Meadow’s win at Rio Mar was her ninth since joining the Unfiversity of Alabama, which is three times more than any other player in the university’s women’s golf history.

Italian teenager Renato Paratore lived up to his reputation as one of Europe’s rising young stars when he won the recent Portuguese International Amateur Championship at the Montado Golf Resort on the Lisbon Coast.

The 17-year-old from Rome came into the event having won the Junior Orange Bowl in the U.S. last December. He added the Portuguese title to his name after carding rounds of 68, 69, 74 and 70 and then defeating English international Nick Marsh with a par of the subsequent sudden-death playoff.

Marsh had gone into the last round well off the pace after opening rounds of 71, 72 and 72 but stormed through the field with a 6-under 66, which was the low round of the championship and helped him to climb into a tie alongside Paratore on 7-under 281.

Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult led Paratore by a stroke after 54 holes but finished with a level-par 72 to drop into third place on 6-under 282, while Spain’s Javier Sainz claimed fourth place two shots further back.

A second Englishman, European Amateur champion Ashley Chesters, shared ifth place with Spain’s Iván Cantero on 285 while a trio comprising France’s Leonard Bern, England’s Luke Johnson and Robbie Van West from the Netherlands were tied seventh on 286.

“This is a great win for me,” said Paratore, who finished tied second behind England’s Ben Amor at last year’s Carris Trophy and also reached the last eight of the Amateur Championship. “It was a very tough battle because there were a lot of players who had a chance to win.”

Marsh’s runner-up finish came just a few weeks after he claimed a top-10 finish behind compatriot Paul Howard at the South American Amateur Championship in Colombia. “Lost in a playoff unfortunately,” the 19-year-old from Huddersield tweeted to his followers. “Still finished 2nd. Had a great week!!”

Defending champion Reeve Whitson is one of several form horses in an impressfive field for this week’s Spanish International Men’s Amateur Championship at La Reserva Golf Club in Sotogrande.

The 22-year-old Irish international, who claimed a share of second place behind Jason Smith at the recent South African Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Benoni Country Club near Johannesburg, is joined by new Portuguese Amateur champion Paratore and by the 16-year-old German star, Dominic Foos, who began his 2014 season in sensational style by sharing 16th place against the top professionals at the recent Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at Doha.

Also in the starting lineup is reigning Amateur champion Garrick Porteous, 2013 European Amateur champion Chesters, 2014 South American Amateur champion Howard and 26-year-old Englishman Ryan Evans, who has won five major titles in the past six months, including three during a recent five-week trip to Australia.

Whitson was in irrepressible form last year at La Manga, where he started the week by helping compatriots Richard O’Donovan and Chris Selfridge claim a two-shot victory against Spain “A” in a Nations Cup battle and ended it by defeating Englishman Neil Raymond by 4 and 3 in the 36-hole final of the individual event.

Whitson’s triumph ended a three-year English stranglehold on the event that had started when Matt Haines beat Tommy Fleetwood in an all-English final in 2010 and was then extended, first when Laurie Canter defeated Stiggy Hodgson in another all-English final in 2011, and again 12 months later when Jack Hiluta defeated Germany’s Marcel Schneider in Majorca.

Whitson is part of a six-strong official Irish squad at La Reserva also comprising Harry Diamond (Belvoir Park), Jack Hume (Naas), Dermot McElroy (Ballymena), Rory McNamara (Headfort) and Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass).

Those six will feature in the Ireland “A” and Ireland “B” sides in the Nations Cup and will be joined in the main event by O’Donovan and Ballybriggan’s Robbie Cannon, the 34-year-old fitness instructor who defeated compatriot Gavin Moynihan and Scot Robertson in a sudden-death playoff at last year’s Irish Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Royal Dublin.

The English also are out in force at La Reserva with Porteous, Chesters, Howard and Evans being joined by Marsh, Harry Casey, Jimmy Mullens, Michael Saunders, Johnson and Smith.

Smith, the winner of the 2013 Brabazon Trophy, makes his first appearance back in the amateur game after missing out on a place at the recent Asian Tour Qualifying School in Thailand.

Other competitors at La Reserva who currently hold down places within the top 100 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking include Spain’s Mario Galiano Aguilar and Denmark’s Mads Søgaard.

Denmark’s Emily Pedersen will start out as the firm favourite when she defends her title at this week’s Spanish International Ladies’ Amateur Championship at El Saler.

The 17-year-old European Junior Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup player defeated Sweden’s Linnea Ström by 5 and 3 in last year’s final at Pula Golf and has since risen to eighth place on the official Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking after a string of fine performances including victories in the 2013 German Girls’ and European Ladies’ championships.

Pedersen is one of four players in the ield at El Saler currently holding down places inside the top 25 on the WWAGR. She is joined by Spanish duo Natalia Escuriola Martinez (No. 21) and Luna Sobrón (No. 23) plus last year’s runner-up, Ström, who is currently at No. 25 on the list. Sobron was the runner-up in the 2013 British Ladies’ Championship and more recently reached the semifinals of the 2014 Australian Ladies’ Championship.

Further down the rankings, a third Spaniard, Silvia Bañón Ibáñez, will be bidding for an international double having recently produced rounds of 69, 69, 72 and 75 to finish just ahead of England’s Gabby Cowley and Martinez at the Portuguese Ladies’ Championship at Montado Golf Club.

Cowley, who is currently No. 59 on the WWAGR after her runner-up finish in Portugal, is the top-ranked GB&I player in the field at El Saler. She is joined in Spain by reigning English Ladies’ champion Sarah- Jane Boyd, and by compatriots Inci Mehmet and Annabel Dimmock, Scotland’s Eilidh Briggs and Irish champion Mary Doyle, all of whom claimed top-10 finishes in Portugal.

Wales is represented by Curtis Cup hopefuls Becky Harries and Chloe Williams.

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