The South African Amateur Championship traces its roots all the way back to 1992. The championship is old, it is storied and it is prestigious. It has also some pretty big names on it – most of them locals – and barring the odd slip up, has very much remained in the hands of South African golfers.
In fact, in the 70 years that the SA Amateur has been played since the Second World War, there have been only 10 foreign winners – and two of them (Teddy Webber twice and Lewis Chitengwa) hail from neighbouring Zimbabwe.
Englishman David Dixon became the first winner from outside of Southern Africa in 18 years when he pipped Dean Lambert at Oppenheimer Park in 2001 but it was really the introduction of the World Amateur Golf Ranking in 2007, with higher-ranking points being allocated to more prestigious events, that has boosted foreign participation in the SA Amateur. In the past seven years, five foreigners have lifted the title, and only Thriston Lawrence’s double (in 2013 and 2014) has denied them a clean sweep.
Craig Ross recently became the fourth Scottish golfer in six years to clinch the Sanlam South African Amateur title after seeing off SA’s Dylan Naidoo 3&1 at George Golf Club. The 23-year-old follows in the footsteps of Daniel Young, who lifted the trophy last year, while Michael Stewart (2011) and Brian Soutar (2012) are the other recent Scottish winners. Englishman Laurie Canter tasted success in the SA Amateur at East London Golf Club in 2010.
While the ‘alien invasion’ may lead to more foreign names on the SA Amateur trophy, there is no doubt that these players, many of whom have Walker Cup experience, help lift the overall standard of the competition, which is of great benefit to our young amateurs.
Naidoo felt he had done everything possible, yet still came up short – and the experience will stand him in good stead in the future.
‘This was probably the best match play game I’ve ever been involved with,’ he said. ‘It was unbelievable. I really fought as hard as I could and left everything on the golf course. I played as well as I could’ve and just got beat today.’
In beating Naidoo 3&1 in the 36-hole final, Ross succeeded in dispatching three of SA’s most promising players in Naidoo, SA No 1 Marco Steyn and Durban Country Club’s Matt Saulez. All three players form part of Golf RSA’s National Squad.
Another Squad member, Franklin Manchest, was the top South African in the 36-hole qualifying event. Although he lost in the first round of the match play event, the 17-year-old George golfer has proven to be one of the success stories of the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB), which he joined when he was just eight years old.