Stone says Dad helped him win

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pomokhine@city­

Still bask­ing in the glory of win­ning the BMW SA Open Cham­pi­onship tro­phy, Bran­don Stone says he is grate­ful to his dad, Kevin, a pro­fes­sional golfer him­self, for in­spir­ing him to win his maiden Euro­pean Tour ti­tle.

Stone shot to in­stant in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion when he lifted the tro­phy at the co-sanc­tioned event at the Glen­dower Golf Club in Eden­vale, Ekurhu­leni, last Sun­day.

At the age of 22 years and 265 days, he be­came the youngest win­ner of the coun­try’s flag­ship con­test since it was first co-staged with the Euro­pean Tour in 1997 (see box). He sur­passed the pre­vi­ous age record set by Trevor Im­mel­man in 2003, when the lat­ter was 23 years and 27 days old.

The Pre­to­ria-based Stone carded a fi­nal-round score of -14 for a to­tal of 274 to beat fel­low South African Chris­ti­aan Bezuiden­hout by two shots.

Stone se­nior, who – like his son – cam­paigns on the Sun­shine Tour, gave his pro­tégé moral sup­port for the du­ra­tion of the three-day event.

The com­pe­ti­tion, field­ing a strong line-up of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional con­tes­tants, was of­ten in­ter­rupted by in­clement weather. But Stone put up a spir­ited show­ing on the fi­nal day to pre­vail.

He gave credit to his fa­ther for the win.

“My dad was with me at the event from day one,” said Stone.

“He gave me good tips on how to keep my com­po­sure, es­pe­cially when the weather was bad dur­ing those first two days, which forced play to be stopped.”

The player said he was more com­fort­able on the fi­nal day, as his fa­ther watched him sink the putt that led to his be­ing crowned.

“The morn­ing be­fore the fi­nal round tee-off, he per­fected my club se­lec­tion. I could feel it in my bones that I was go­ing to win, and our strat­egy worked per­fectly. Thanks to Dad – he’s such an in­spi­ra­tion to my ca­reer.”

Stone’s vic­tory has raised him from 249th in the world rank­ings to 118th. He broke into the lo­cal tour scene three years ago and of­ten com­petes with his men­tor-fa­ther, who has been swing­ing his clubs among the top play­ers for the past 20 years.

“The two of us of­ten play at Cen­tu­rion Coun­try Club, our lo­cal course, to pre­pare for big games,” he said.

Stone, who is also in­spired by vet­er­ans Ernie “The Big Easy” Els and Retief “The Goose” Goosen, is eye­ing other big ti­tles on the more de­mand­ing Euro­pean cir­cuit fair­ways in fu­ture.

He is cur­rently com­pet­ing in the Joburg Open that ends to­day at the Royal Jo­han­nes­burg & Kens­ing­ton Golf Club.

On Thurs­day, he will swing his clubs at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Cham­pi­onship in the United Arab Emi­rates.

“I am look­ing for­ward to giv­ing it my best shot there. I am in great form on the course at the mo­ment. I am de­ter­mined to win in Abu Dhabi,” said Stone.

Stone se­nior says of his son: “He has a great swing that re­minds me of Ernie Els. I be­lieve he will go places be­cause he is ex­tremely fo­cused.”


VIC­TO­RI­OUS Cham­pion Bran­don Stone poses with the SA Open tro­phy

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