By Lali Stander
(Photo: SAGA. Qualifiers Herman Loubser (left) and Cameron Moralee with Africa Open champion Trevor Fisher Jnr at Glendower Golf Club ahead of the BMW SA Open Championship proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni)
Four of South Africa’s leading junior golfers upstaged a bevy of professional players to join a world-class field in the 2016 BMW SA Open Championship proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni, at Glendower Golf Club.
David Meyers, Albert Venter, Herman Loubser and Cameron Moralee boosted the number of amateur starters to nine, which is the biggest amateur contingent to line up in the SA Open in the last 30 years.
The junior quartet were among 268 hopefuls who vied for 13 precious spots at three pre-qualifying venues on Tuesday.
Meyers from Central Gauteng returned a 68 to join Jaco Prinsloo and Daniel Hammond in a tie for second at Benoni Country Club. The trio finished four shots behind winner Jason Froneman, while Venter from Gauteng North sewed up the final spot with a three-under 69.
Louis Calitz also produced a scorching eight-under 64 to claim the first of four spots on offer at Kempton Park Golf Club.
Eddie Taylor carded 66 to finish second, while Loubser from Boland and Southern Cape’s Moralee both signed for 67s to finish in a six-way tie for third.
The pair secured the final two spots with birdies at the first hole of a sudden-death play-off.
Loubser, who finished an outstanding season ranked third in the South African Golf Association (SAGA) Open Amateur standings, missed out on automatic qualification into the 105th staging of the South African Golf Association’s flagship event.
The 16-year-old Theewaterskloof golfer was over the moon to join reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion Daniel Young from Scotland, South African number one ranked Tristen Strydom, as well as Teaghan Gauche, Andre Nel and Jade Buitendag in Thursday’s first round.
Gauche earned his card for the 2016 Sunshine Tour at Qualifying School in December, but decided to use the SA Open for his amateur swansong.
“Teaghan worked really hard for his spot in the field and it’s only right that he should have the chance to challenge for the Freddie Tait Cup at the end of his amateur career,” Loubser said.
“At first I was disappointed that I would have to qualify, but now it means even more to me now that I have had to fight for my spot. To say I am stoked that I qualified would be the understatement of the century.”
KeNako Academy’s Moralee was equally delighted at the prospect of lining up in the world’s second oldest national Open.
“The biggest reward for me was seeing my dad’s face light up when I made that birdie to qualify,” the George golfer said.
“He has been incredibly supportive throughout my career and to do this for him means the world to me. I’m really excited to make my debut in the SA Open. It’s every amateur’s dream to play our national Open and I can’t wait to get started.”
Loubser, Moralee and Meyers all competed in the South African Inter-Provincial, staged at Glendower in September last year, and are understandably confident ahead of Thursday’s first round.
“We all played the course seven times, including two practice rounds,” Loubser said.
“We know the course pretty well, especially where the trouble is. The greens here are great and you can score well, but you have to stay in the fairways. That’s the key, really. I suppose we will all have a little case of butterflies on the first tee, but hopefully we get over it quickly and get on with it.”
Meanwhile Jeff Inglis from England, Daniel Greene and Darren Lloyd claimed the first three spots at Irene Country Club with rounds of 65, 66 and 67 respectively.
Sunshine Tour rookie Michael Palmer edged out England’s Toby Tree and former double Sanlam SA Amateur champion Thriston Lawrence in a play-off on 68 for the final spot.