James (Westlake), who improved his national ranking from No 15 in 2014 to No 2 in 2015, must have felt a bit like Ernie Els did when he came up against Tiger Woods in the majors around the turn of the millennium. James failed to win a tournament, and was a runner-up to Roux no fewer than four times.
James had his best season in Mid-Amateur golf, though, and he did especially well in the SA Mid-Amateur at Victoria, where he gave Roux his toughest battle of the year. James kept Roux closely in sight through the first three rounds, trailing by one going into the final round, and then unleashed a birdie barrage over the front nine to take the lead. He was out in 32, but came home in 43 as Roux went on to win by four shots.
James finished with a stroke average of 72.69, marred by high scores in his last two tournaments.
Josef Fourie (Hoopstad) had another steady year to finish No 3 on the rankings, but had just the one victory to his name, after claiming three titles in 2014.
The 2014 No 1, Steve Williams (Modderfontein), slipped to No 17 on the rankings after injury prevented him from playing any tournaments the first six months of the year. He was fit enough, though, to represent South Africa in the International Teams event in France in July along with Roux, James and Fourie. He ended the year on a high note by winning the SA Senior Open at Blue Valley.
Mid-Amateur golf will have a new minimum age of 30 for 2016, and it will be interesting to see if younger players – those between 30 and the old limit of 35 – do have any impact in tournaments. Up to now it has been the veterans who have ruled the roost. Mid-Amateur golf had its oldest winner yet in 2015, when 61-year-old Steve Cullen won the Lowveld title.
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