NO1 REIGNS AT PECANWOOD
Mellette Hendrikse sets a championship record with his second Indwe SA Senior Amateur title in the last three years.
MELLETTE HENDRIKSE capped a superb year in tournament golf by winning the Indwe Risk Services SA Senior Amateur at Pecanwood by five shots. It was his sixth title of 2014, and the 54-year-old from Akasia Country Club in Pretoria looks set for a long reign as the No 1 senior in the land.
Having previously won the SA Senior Amateur title at Wingate Park in 2012, Hendrikse is one of only three players to have won multiple national crowns in the last 20 years. Jock Wellington claimed three between 2001 and 2008, and Manie Grobler was a back-to-back champion in 1999-2000.
Speaking of Wellington, the 63-yearold from Kyalami continues to rise to the occasion in big events, clinching a share of second place at Pecanwood with Chris Delport and maintaining his remarkable record in this championship. He was the Super Senior champion (60+) for a second time, and has had nine top-3 finishes in 14 appearances. And he had his 10th career ace at Pecanwood’s water-edged 13th hole in round two. Four years ago he had an ace in the championship at Randpark.
Hendrikse’s 54-hole total of eightunder-par 208 on the Jack Nicklaus design estate layout, rounds of 68-7070, was a record for the championship, beating the 211 total first set by Grobler at ERPM in 1999 and matched by Wellington at Bloemfontein in 2006.
It was the first time since 2006 that the Senior Amateur had been played at the same course for all three rounds, instead of on two courses. While this appeared a sound decision for the best senior players, it was not universally popular. Those entrants who didn’t make it into the field for Pecanwood (6 handicap and lower) had to play at nearby Magaliespark in the “B” section. Many withdrew, leaving just 47 to contest this Stableford event.
As a result, the total number of entries was 189, compared to over 300 in George a year ago. Next year the championship will revert to using two courses for all competitors. It will be hosted by Eastern Province, at the St Francis Links and St Francis Bay courses.
Hendrikse had 12 birdies and one eagle, offset by just six bogeys, over the three rounds at Pecanwood. He was eight-under for the par 5s, using his length off the tee to good effect in the dry conditions. His opening 68 wasn’t good enough for first day honours though, as Johan Marais (Fancourt) had eight birdies in a 67.
Delport, 54, had back-to-back 69s to begin the championship (including birdies at the tough 18th in both rounds), and the Zwartkop member, earlier this year elected chairman of the SA Senior Golf Association, shared the 36-hole lead with Hendrikse, his Gauteng North team-mate.
“Mellette is the tournament favourite, and all the pressure is on him,” said Delport before the final round. “I once played
a league match against a young Rory Sabbatini. I told him: ‘Youngster, if you beat me today, all the guys will say hard luck, but if I beat you, they will call it a major upset.’ That’s how I see my chances.”
Wellington and Marais were two shots back on 140, with No 2-ranked Morgan Phillips on 142 after two 71s.
Delport wasn’t able to make a birdie in the final round, but steady par golf kept him within one shot of Hendrikse until the 14th. The Akasia player then went birdie-par-birdie over the next three holes to surge ahead. A crucial hole was the 15th, where Hendrikse holed a long putt to save par, and Delport three-putted. He finished the round with bogeys at 15 and 18.
Marais hung on for fourth place, ahead of Phillips, while Eastern Province’s Zola Konzani showed that last year’s T-5 in the rain-shortened championship at Fancourt was no fluke by taking sixth place on this occasion.
“It’s been an amazing year for me,” said Hendrikse, who failed to win a title in 2013, and who has now won 11 times since turning 50. “I’ve never hit the ball better, especially my long irons, and my short game has been coming along nicely. I put myself within birdie distance throughout the tournament. Having my wife Angie on the bag in the final round made this victory especially memorable.”