Almero stars at Sun City

Free Stater claims SA Mid-Am­a­teur ti­tle in play­off over Ryan Dreyer

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Amateur Scene -

Almero Theron be­came the youngest win­ner of the SA MidA­ma­teur Cham­pi­onship, and the first cham­pion from the Free State, tri­umph­ing at Sun City in only his sec­ond start in a SAGA Mid-Am­a­teur sanc­tioned event. He might also pos­si­bly be the first na­tional cham­pion to have re­cov­ered from scor­ing a 10 on one hole.

Theron, from Heron Banks Golf Club in theVaalTri­an­gle, turned 30 in Fe­bru­ary this year, be­com­ing el­i­gi­ble for Mid-Am­a­teur golf, which last year saw the age limit re­duced from 35 to 30.A for­mer club cham­pion at Parys, he has rep­re­sented the Free State Coun­try Dis­tricts team, and has now set his hopes on play­ing for the South African Mid-Am­a­teur side.

In a 72-hole tour­na­ment which saw high scor­ing from the field at the Gary Player CC,Theron shot a 72 in the fi­nal round (fol­low­ing 73-74-72) to tie for­mer SA Am­a­teur cham­pion Ryan Dreyer and then beat the 45-year-old Kil­lar­ney vet­eran (73-70-72-76) on the third play­off hole, with a par at the 18th.They had tied on a three-over-par to­tal of 291, which in the con­text of the tough con­di­tions at the GPCC was re­mark­ably good scor­ing – there have only been two higher win­ning scores. Third-placed Kevin Sharp (Mod­der­fontein), the No 2-ranked Mid-Am­a­teur, was seven shots fur­ther back in third place, and the only other player to break 300.

Theron had a re­mark­able third round. Hav­ing made the turn in 33, he had a 10 at the par-5 tenth! That, and a bo­gey at 11 could have spelled the end of his hopes, but he re­cov­ered su­perbly with four birdies to shoot 72, and stay within four of Dreyer go­ing into the fi­nal round.“I lost two balls left off the tenth tee, hav­ing failed to no­tice that the tee had been moved for­ward that day,” said Theron.

“I took driver off the tee, when a 3-wood would have been the bet­ter choice. In the fi­nal round I didn’t use my driver at all, mostly hit­ting a hy­brid or 3-iron off the tee to keep the ball in play be­cause of the rough.”

Nar­row fair­ways and deep rough made the GPCC a gru­elling ex­pe­ri­ence for many of those who en­tered. Bunkers which once bor­dered fair­ways now stand iso­lated in an is­land of rough. One for­mer cham­pion ad­mit­ted that he had been ter­ri­fied stand­ing on the tee of some long holes, and view­ing the land­ing ar­eas.“You just can­not guar­an­tee hit­ting a driver that straight,” he said.

Dreyer, the No 1-ranked Mid-Am­a­teur, had fin­ished in the top-5 in each of his three pre­vi­ous SA Mid-Am­a­teur ap­pear­ances, and while his run­ner-up fin­ish was his best yet, this was a dis­ap­point­ingly close call for him. Hav­ing kept big num­bers off his card through the first three rounds at Sun City, noth­ing worse than a 5, he had a 7 and a 6 in his fi­nal round 76.

In a field of 130 of the best Mid-Ama­teurs, the 36-hole cut for the top 65 and ties came on 24-over-par! The player who was 65th at the end of the week fin­ished on 55-over.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Ger­lou Roux (Bellville), bid­ding for a hat-trick of ti­tles, fin­ished 20 shots be­hind the lead­ers, scor­ing 78-76-72-79.The av­er­age 18-hole score of the top 30 fin­ish­ers was 77, against a course rat­ing of 73.

Ryan Dreyer.

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