Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Amateur Scene -

Mel­lette Hen­drikse had two tough ri­vals from the East­ern Cape to deal with in the 2015 se­nior am­a­teur sea­son. While he may have lost his No 1 na­tional rank­ing and the SA Se­nior Am­a­teur crown to Zola Konzani in Oc­to­ber, the Gaut­eng North player from Aka­sia Coun­try Club had re­gained the No 1 po­si­tion by the end of the year to fin­ish top of the ta­ble for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year.

Hen­drikse (right) lim­ited him­self to 10 tour­na­ment ap­pear­ances in 2015, yet he still man­aged to win five times, and only once fin­ished out of the top-5. That was a mea­sure of his con­sis­tency over the year. His stroke av­er­age, though, was 74.26, al­most a full shot higher than in 2014, when he won six times.

That higher stroke av­er­age was mostly due to tougher course con­di­tions in the two ma­jor tour­na­ments of the year, the 54-hole Se­nior Play­ers at Sun City, where Hen­drikse was run­ner-up to Mor­gan Phillips, and 72-hole SA Se­nior Am­a­teur at Hume­wood, where he was T-3, a good dis­tance be­hind win­ner Konzani.

In 2014, Hen­drikse was more than 20 points ahead of sec­ond-placed Jock Welling­ton in the rank­ings, but this year there was just a 2.7-point mar­gin be­tween him and Konzani, the diminu­tive East­ern Prov­ince player, who won twice in 9 out­ings, and had eight top-5 fin­ishes. His only “poor” per­for­mance came in the Play­ers. He won the Se­nior Am­a­teur on his home course at Hume­wood by 12 shots.

Konzani had a stroke av­er­age of 73.95, but be­ing based at the coast he played a dif­fer­ent sched­ule of tour­na­ments to Hen­drikse. They only came up against each other in four tour­na­ments, the Play­ers and SA Se­nior Am­a­teur, plus two Septem­ber 36-holers in KZN. The out­come was 2-2 in terms of fin­ishes. Their only head-to-head bat­tle was at Dur­ban CC in

the KZN Spring Clas­sic, where Hen­drikse shot 74 in the sec­ond round to edge Konzani (76) by one.

One of the stand­out play­ers of the year was rookie se­nior Mzuyanda Zin­gela (Uiten­hage), who has played pro­vin­cial golf con­tin­u­ously for East­ern Prov­ince since he was in his 20s. This year he rep­re­sented EP in three In­ter­provin­cials – the Se­nior IPT, Mid-Am­a­teur IPT, and Premier IPT. Zin­gela won three times in 11 tour­na­ments, was twice a run­ner-up, and had 10 top-10s. He had the best stroke av­er­age of 73.67. His only “dis­ap­point­ment” was a sev­enth-place fin­ish in the SA Se­nior Am­a­teur in his home town of Port El­iz­a­beth.

The most im­proved player of the year was Hen­drikse’s Gaut­eng North team­mate Wil­liam Skin­ner (Zwartkop), who climbed 13 places up the rank­ings from No 19 to No 6. Af­ter gain­ing his maiden vic­tory at the end of 2014, he won twice in 2015, and was twice a run­ner-up, in­clud­ing a play­off loss to Hen­drikse in the North West Open. He had 10 top-10s in 16 ap­pear­ances.

Other im­proved play­ers in­cluded Konzani, up from No 6 to No 2; Lyn­ton Beck­ett (Royal Dur­ban), from No 18 to No 10; Brian Mamp­ies (Parow), from No 21 to No 13; and Gavin van Aswe­gen (Eye of Africa), from No 22 to No 16.

The other mul­ti­ple win­ners in 2015 were Basil Naidoo (KZN), who held on to his fifth place in the rank­ings for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, and Ekurhu­leni rookie Dun­can Neill, who had back-to-back suc­cesses at Kim­ber­ley and Wit­bank.

Neill and Zin­gela are two of 11 new­com­ers in the top 25 of the rank­ings com­pared to the 2014 sea­son.

There were 24 tour­na­ments in 2015, and they were won by 14 dif­fer­ent play­ers. Among the win­ners were Su­per Se­niors (60+) Ian Smith (Houghton) and Adrian Kriel (Win­gate Park), both at the end of the year in the fi­nal two events, plus Ir­ish­man Garth McGimpsey back in Fe­bru­ary. Eight ti­tles went to Gaut­eng North play­ers, five to EP, and three to KZN.

There was a good bal­ance of pro­vin­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the top 25 of the rank­ings at the end of the year. Gaut­eng North again had the most with five play­ers, down from seven in 2014, while Cen­tral Gaut­eng again had four, with three apiece from KZN, WP and Ekurhu­leni. Four Su­per Se­niors in the top 25 were Welling­ton and Van Aswe­gen from Cen­tral Gaut­eng, Kriel and North West’s Christo Reyneke.

The “iron men” of the se­nior cir­cuit were again Christie le Roux and Ra­mon Rahme, play­ing in 21 of the 24 events, while Ian Smith took part in 20.

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