South Africa’s top talent once again rose to the occasion to successfully defend the country’s A- and B-Division titles in the recent Africa Region 5 Golf Tournament in Zambia. The prestigious team championship, formerly known as the Africa Zone VI, was hosted by the Zambia Golf Union at Nkana Golf Club in Kitwe from 12 to 14 April.
The National Team comprising Marco Steyn, former Youth Olympian Kyle McClatchie, Luca Filippi and reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion Christo Lamprecht reeled in the country’s 21st victory, while four of South Africa’s most promising rising stars – Franklin Manchest, Steven le Roux, Siyanda Mwandla and Aneurin Gounden – successfully combined to secure the GolfRSA Team’s title defence in the B-Division for a second successive year.
The 2017 championship drew a field of 13 teams, including two each from Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia and Angola and one each from Kenya and Uganda, countries outside Region 5 who took up invitations to the 23rd edition of Africa’s premier teams’ championship.
The South African National Team edged out the GolfRSA Team by six strokes to win the seeding stroke play qualifier on a total score of 217. Zambia took third on 226.
“Only one team per country can compete in the A-Division and the balance contest the B-Division,” explained South African Golf Association Second-Vice President Martin Saaiman, who accompanied the National Team. “I am incredibly proud of performances of both teams. They did an outstanding job to finish first and second in the qualifier and then carried that momentum all the way to the finish line. Both teams did South Africa proud.”
Following the seeding qualifier, the remainder of the championship is contested in a knock-out match play format.
Steyn and Lamprecht put the first two points on the board in their singles against Botswana and Filippi and McClatchie made it 3-0 with a 5&3 result in the quarter-final Foursomes.
In the semi-final against Zimbabwe, Filippi drew first blood when he downed his opponent 6 & 4, Lamprecht took the side 2-up and McClatchie and Steyn delivered the clean sweep to secure the team’s spot in the final against Zambia.
“Facing Zambia’s A-team on their home turf was always going to be tough, but our players stood their ground,” McClatchie said. “For a third day running, Christo won his game and I got us the other point in the singles to go 2-up. Although our victory was guaranteed, Luca and Marco never let up and they combined to win 4&3 to make sure we finished the week undefeated.”
Steyn, a member of the victorious 2016 team, said it felt great to keep the winning record alive.
“With this new format, you don’t get any second chances. With just three points to play for it tests your match play skills. You rely heavily on your team mates, because once you’ve lost a round, you’re out. With each round, the pressure mounts to keep winning. Each one of us had a job to do and we are really proud that we achieved what we set out to do.”
Filippi was thrilled to be part of South Africa’s legacy in this premier event.
“Earlier this month, Christo and I won South Africa’s 22nd title in the All Africa Junior with Garrick Higgo and Jayden Schaper,” said Filippi. “The four of us added another year to a record that Kyle and Marco both helped to set and to come to Zambia with them and to be part of another incredible record is just fantastic. We were under a lot of pressure, but the bigger the pressure, the deeper we dug. We inspired each other and for all of us to be part of two legacies for South Africa is indescribable.”
The GolfRSA Team were forced to change gears before the championship even got underway.
“Franklin, Steven and Aneurin were part of our winning team last year and Siya came into the event with a great match play record,” said GolfRSA Team manager Greg de Doncker.
“They were all geared up for the fight, however, when we arrived in Zambia, we learned that three teams had pulled out. That meant byes for the five teams left in the B-Division. We bring the B-teams to compete, to learn, to gain experience, not to sit on the side lines.
“I suggested that we change the format to stroke play to give the players as much time on the course as the A-Division and the proposal was accepted. The stroke play qualifier would count as the first round for the B-Division and the GolfRSA Team immediately took up the challenge. Frankie and Steven laid the groundwork with a pair of 73s and Aneurin’s opening 77 helped the side to pole position on 223.”
Manchest shot 72, Mwandla 73 and Le Roux 74 for a second round 219 and the team started the third round on 442 with a 29 shot lead over Zimbabwe B. Le Roux fired a superb three under 69, Gounden carded 71 and Manchest posted 74 to combine for 215.
“That pushed the team to 657, 43 shots clear of Zambia B and 54 shots clear of Zimbabwe B,” De Doncker said. Despite a big lead, the boys didn’t take their foot off the pedal in the final round Steven led the way with a 71, Franklin came home in 72 strokes and Siya returned a 76 for a final round 219. We finished on 876 and beat Zambia B by 48 strokes.
“All four boys are proud members of the GolfRSA National Squad and they wanted to prove that they are worth the investment GolfRSA is making in their future careers. They were quite disappointed after the first round, saying they made too many silly mistakes. But they rallied and never backed down. They really encouraged each other and it was wonderful to watch the camaraderie and the spirit of this team. Truly and proudly GolfRSA.”