Amateurs hunting Freddie Tait Cup at Serengeti

One of the most coveted trophies to be competed for at this week’s South African Open at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate is the Freddie Tait Cup which is awarded to the leading amateur in the field.

Most aspiring amateurs in South African golf will be fully aware of the significance of the trophy, and being awarded such an honour is an achievement to be cherished. However, for all the acclaim that comes with winning the Freddie Tait Cup, few will be familiar with its history and indeed the man it has been named after.

Frederick Guthrie Tait (11 January 1870-7 February 1900) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He quickly established himself as a fine young golfer, most notably for his power and distance off the tee. He played at St Andrews, the home of golf, at the age of seven and was granted membership soon after. In 1894, he set the course record there, and a few months later went on to finish as the low amateur at the Open Championship.

In 1896, he won the Amateur Championship and finished third at the Open. His last competitive year in golf was in 1899. That year he finished as the low amateur at the Open for the third time, and also registered the course record at Archfield with a remarkable 63.

Tait was first and foremost a soldier, and his golfing career came to an end as he boarded the SS Orient bound for the Cape to fight in the Boer War. After surviving the battle of Magersfontein in December 1899 when his battalion was decimated, Tait recovered and went on to lead his platoon at the battle of Koedoesburg Drift near Kimberley. Here he tragically suffered a fatal shot to the chest while leading a forward rush.

In 1928 the Freddie Tait Cup was purchased courtesy of the surplus funds from the British Amateur Tour to South Africa. The cup bears the R&A Club die and crest and the medal die of the Army Golfing Society.

Bernard Wynne was the first amateur to be awarded this honour way back in 1929. South Africa’s Brandon Stone won the prestigious trophy in 2011, and he joined an elite list of players that includes the likes of Jock Verwey, Bobby Locke, Denis Hutchinson and Dale Hayes.

For the amateurs this week, it will be all to play for as they hunt for a trophy at Serengeti that will in all likelihood be the crowning achievement of their careers thus far.

Dylan Fritelli, who won it at Pearl Valley in 2009, is now a professional, and is playing in the pre-qualifying rounds. Another recent winner is Sunshine Tour professional Dean O’Riley, who won it in 2010.

By Michael Todt

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