Almero stars at Sun City
Free Stater claims SA Mid-Amateur title in playoff over Ryan Dreyer
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.