South Africa’s National Team sealed the country’s 20th victory in the prestigious Africa Zone VI Golf Tournament, while the Presidents Team reigned supreme in the B-Flight at the Royal Swazi Spa Country Club in Swaziland on Friday last week.
Africa’s flagship team event adopted a new format last year that introduced an A- and B-Division, which allowed countries to send two teams of four players each in instead of the traditional team of eight players.
South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi and the host country each fielded two teams, while Zambia, Uganda, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya, Lesotho and Angola entered one team each.
The format was also amended to start with an 18-hole stroke play qualifier to decide the seeding for the two flights. The second stage consisted of three rounds of match play knock-out.
South Africa’s National Team included Central Gauteng duo Marco Steyn and Dylan Naidoo, James du Preez from Gauteng North and Tristen Strydom from Ekurhuleni.
The Presidents Team comprised Golf RSA national squad members Anuerin Gounden from KwaZulu-Natal, Franklin Manchest from Southern Cape, Ekurhuleni’s Sentanio Minnie and Steven le Roux from Free State.
Strydom – the only member of the 2015 team to return to duty – applauded the new format.
‘This year’s Zone VI was a lot more competitive,’ Strydom said.‘With the old format, each country had to send eight players, but with only four players per team, the countries sent only their strongest players. The result was a really fierce competition in both divisions. All the matches were very tight and the standard of golf was definitely higher.
‘I think that by splitting your best amateurs and your top developing players, both teams got the best out of the competition.’
The National and Presidents teams finished first and second respectively in the stroke play qualifier, however, only one team could represent the country in the A-Division.
The format for the match play knockout in both divisions was one foursomes game and two singles.
‘In the first round against Namibia, James and Tristen won 3&2, I beat my opponent 4&3 and Dylan was 1-up when we won the match,” said South Africa’s top ranked Marco Steyn.
‘Our second match was against the defending champions Uganda. James and Tristen won 5&3, I won 2&1 and Dylan was 1-up with four to play when we won the match. Our final match was against Zambia. James and Tristen once again put us on the early attack with a 3&2 victory. I beat my opponent 2&1 and Dylan was 2-up when the victory was called.
‘Although poor Dylan has three walk-ins, all of us really enjoyed the new format. Although we didn’t play last year, the standard was much higher than we anticipated. I agree with Tristen that competition was a lot fiercer and tougher than we expected.
‘With just three points to play for, the format really tests your match play skills and you rely heavily on the foursomes pairing. James and Tristen dovetailed really well in each match to give Dylan and me a little room to manoeuvre.’
By Lali Stander