A stone’s throw from vic­tory

Golf’s new­bie gets tips from his dad and shows older play­ers a thing or two

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­press.co.za

South Africa’s emerg­ing golf­ing star Bran­don Stone hopes to main­tain his win­ning form by suc­cess­fully de­fend­ing his BMW SA Open Cham­pi­onship ti­tle.

The Sun­shineEuro­pean tour co­sanc­tioned tour­na­ment tees off at Glen­dower Golf Club in Eden­vale, Ekurhu­leni, on Jan­uary 12.

Stone opened this year in style by win­ning the Open with a score of 14 un­der-par 274 at the same venue in Jan­uary and pock­eted a whop­ping R2.4 mil­lion in prize money.

This was a great show­ing for a golfer who only turned pro­fes­sional in 2013.

Last Sun­day, the 23-year-old Pre­to­ri­abased player closed the sea­son on a high by snatch­ing the Al­fred Dun­hill Cham­pi­onship – an­other big one.

He out­classed his chal­lengers to win the event, played at Leop­ard Creek Coun­try Club in Male­lane, by seven shots for his sec­ond Euro­pean Tour ti­tle. It earned him R2.8 mil­lion, his big­gest purse so far.

Stone, who is ranked 107th in the world, shot 22 un­der­par across the four-day show­down, leav­ing fel­low South African Richard Sterne far be­hind in sec­ond place.

He was con­sis­tent through­out the sea­son, and he fin­ished in re­spectable po­si­tions in other con­tests and boosted his earn­ings (see graphic).

Not even sea­soned fel­low South African cam­paign­ers Bran­den Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen have been able to main­tain such great form on the course this year. Stone be­lieves his long-held dream of win­ning the Open for the sec­ond suc­ces­sive year will be­come a re­al­ity, given his cur­rent good form. “I’m quite aware that this has been a mag­nif­i­cent year for me,” Stone said. My aim is to win the Open for the sec­ond year run­ning as this will hope­fully open the flood­gates for other big wins as well this sea­son.” About the money that he has al­ready ac­crued from the game so far, the young golfer said: “Ob­vi­ously, [it] is quite en­cour­ag­ing to gain so much in [only] one year. I hope to dou­ble the amount next year.” He is full of praise for his fa­ther Kevin, a for­mer pro­fes­sional golfer on the Sun­shine Tour who played a key role in his son’s win at Leop­ard Creek Coun­try Club. “My dad al­ways goes with me to events,” Stone said. “At the Dun­hill, he was a bit ner­vous on the first three days as I was not hit­ting straight shots. “On the fi­nal day, he worked on my swing be­fore the game, hence I played con­sis­tently and ran away with the ti­tle.” He said his fa­ther, who is based in Bal­lito on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, had been look­ing after his golf­ing in­ter­ests since he was five. “To get this win be­fore Christmas is ob­vi­ously great, but, more im­por­tantly, it gets me a good start on the Race to Dubai.” The Race to Dubai af­fords golfers cam­paign­ing on the Euro­pean Tour a chance to ac­cu­mu­late more points dur­ing the sea­son and win a tro­phy at the end of year. He said he would spend the Christmas hol­i­days with his fam­ily at the Kruger Na­tional Park be­fore prepar­ing for the Open.

FAR BE­HIND Richard Sterne has had to play sec­ond fid­dle to Stone

BEEN THERE Charl Schwartzel play­ing in Male­lane

ON TOP Stone’s form is bet­ter than Louis Oosthuizen’s

NOT QUITE Bran­den Grace also can’t keep up with Stone

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