IT DOESN’T GET CLOSER THAN THIS

WP sneak home af­ter North West dent Cen­tral’s hopes

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Amateur Scene - By Stu­art McLean

Honours went West­ern Prov­ince’s way in the Indwe Se­nior In­ter­provin­cial, but only af­ter one of the clos­est pos­si­ble fin­ishes at Ebotse Links. The de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons held off Cen­tral Gaut­eng by half-a-point in a countout af­ter the two ri­vals had ended the week on the same num­ber of points.

Cen­tral nar­rowly beat WP in their fi­nal-day head-to­head show­down, but it was a shock loss to North West Prov­ince the pre­vi­ous day that was to ef­fec­tively cost them the A di­vi­sion ti­tle.

Prov­ince and Cen­tral have been evenly matched in terms of strength since the Se­nior IPT switched to a straight match­play for­mat in 2013. Cen­tral won that first year in Lim­popo with a clean sheet of 7 wins, fin­ish­ing three points ahead of Prov­ince. WP swept the boards at home in 2014, by two points from Cen­tral. The clash be­tween them at Ebotse was again ex­pected to de­ter­mine the ti­tle this year, only for lowly North West to claim an almighty up­set and muddy the sit­u­a­tion. They not only beat Cen­tral, but did so con­clu­sively, tak­ing the four­somes 4-0 and sin­gles 5-3. It was only Cen­tral’s sec­ond de­feat in 21 matches, so for North West it was a win for the his­tory books.

Cen­tral, even af­ter such a dam­ag­ingly wide mar­gin of de­feat, were still in a good po­si­tion to re­claim the ti­tle the next day, thanks to big wins ear­lier in the week. They were just one game point be­hind WP (38-37), with a tri­an­gu­lar match on the line be­tween Prov­ince, Cen­tral and KwaZulu-Natal. It was any­one’s con­test to win. Even KZN were in with an out­side chance of be­com­ing cham­pi­ons, hav­ing lost just the once in the pre­vi­ous three days.

How­ever, Cen­tral had a flaw in their team makeup that was to prove their even­tual un­do­ing. De­spite all the prac­tice out­ings be­fore­hand, their weak­ness at Ebotse was in the four­somes, and on the fi­nal day they found them­selves 3-1 down to WP in this for­mat, and 2-2 with KZN. It was symp­to­matic of Cen­tral’s week. Of the 28 four­somes points avail­able, Cen­tral scored 12½, and 10 of those came from two pair­ings – Jock Welling­ton and Schalk Naude, Richard Bruyns and Gavin van Aswe­gen. The other two con­trib­uted just 2½ points.

In con­trast, Prov­ince’s four steady pair­ings earned 19½ points, and in the fi­nal anal­y­sis that was what determined the out­come in their favour.

Cen­tral did fight back as they al­ways do in the sin­gles the fi­nal af­ter­noon,

trounc­ing both WP and KZN 5½-2½, but with WP beat­ing KZN 8-4, Cen­tral were half-a-point shy of what they needed. They will have felt gut­ted by how close they came. Six of the sin­gles matches be­tween WP and Cen­tral went to the fi­nal hole.

Prov­ince’s key play­ers at Ebotse were again Fran­cois le Roux, cap­tain Tony Bai­ley, Brian Mamp­ies and An­drew Cleophas, the back­bone of the team, as they had been the pre­vi­ous year. Mamp­ies and Cleophas won six of their seven four­somes, Le Roux and Bai­ley had five wins and a half, and the four earned a to­tal of 19½ sin­gles points.

“Team spirit cer­tainly pulled us through on a tough course on which we didn’t have much time to pre­pare be­fore the tour­na­ment,” said Bai­ley. “My phi­los­o­phy as cap­tain has been to build a good four­somes base, and then place strong, re­li­able play­ers first out in the sin­gles to gain early points. It worked for us.”

Prov­ince showed two changes from their 2014 team, and rookie se­nior Craig Poul­ton was thrust into the No 1 sin­gles po­si­tion, which meant the more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers could be slot­ted into the mid­dle of the or­der. The other team mem­bers were Peter van Coller, Dirk van der Merwe and Japie Koop­man.

Bruyns, Naude, Van Aswe­gen and Welling­ton were the star all­round per­form­ers for Cen­tral, all be­ing among the top 10 in the in­di­vid­ual MVP stand­ings. Naude has earned 24 points out of 28 for his team the last two years, an ef­fort only equalled by WP’s Le Roux. And the two of them halved their sin­gles clash on the fi­nal day, a key re­sult in the fi­nal reckoning.

Cu­ri­ously, Cen­tral’s Alan Fraser won all seven of his sin­gles matches at No 5 in the or­der, yet lost six four­somes matches with part­ner Lawrence Franklin.

Welling­ton has had 17 wins and three halves out of 21 sin­gles matches at the Se­nior IPT in its cur­rent for­mat. Play­ing at No 2 the 64-yearold suf­fered his first de­feat in three years when beaten 4/3 by Gaut­eng North’s Wil­liam Skin­ner, who shared MVP honours for the week with KZN’s Mor­gan Phillips. Skin­ner’s only sin­gles de­feat was on the fi­nal day against Ekurhu­leni’s Kevin Monk.

Phillips was in the hot No 1 seat for KZN, and what

a week he had in the sin­gles, beat­ing Brian Naidoo, Ra­mon Rahme, Mel­lette Hen­drikse, Lionel Davids, Lawrence Franklin and Poul­ton. It was the sec­ond year in a row he had beaten No-1 ranked se­nior Hen­drikse, who had a poor week for Gaut­eng North in the sin­gles. Phillips halved with North West’s Roy van Blerk, who had a use­ful week for his team.

North West only won two matches all week, but their eight play­ers – led with 12 wins from Henry Odell and Solly Raut­en­bach – did fan­tas­ti­cally well in the sin­gles, where they earned 35½ points, sec­ond only to Cen­tral’s 38½ points.

Davids had an ex­cel­lent week for South­ern Cape, last year’s B di­vi­sion cham­pi­ons. He lost 2/1 to Phillips, but had six sin­gles wins at No 1 over Franklin, Rahme, Poul­ton, Brian Naidoo, Hen­drikse and Van Blerk.

“The qual­ity of golf among all the A di­vi­sion teams has re­ally im­proved, and there are fewer easy matches than there were two years ago,” said Bai­ley. “There were sev­eral close matches, and Prov­ince were tested by both North West and Ekurhu­leni. We won with 51½ points, com­pared to scor­ing 62 and 58 the last two years.”

Gaut­eng North, who went into the tour­na­ment with as good a chance of win­ning the ti­tle as any team, lost to WP and Cen­tral on the first two days, and in those two key games they earned just one four­somes point out of eight. They bounced back to end KZN’s win­ning run 7-5 on day three, but then were firmly trounced by hosts Ekurhu­leni on the fi­nal day.

The two vic­to­ri­ous West­ern Prov­ince teams with their

re­spec­tive tro­phies.

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