By Lali Stander
South Africa’s top ranked amateur Tristen Strydom (photo: Roger Sedres/Image SA) has his sights fixed on the prestigious Freddie Tait Cup as he heads a strong cast of amateurs in the BMW SA Open Championship proudly hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni at Glendower Golf Club this week.
The 18-year-old Ekurhuleni golfer believes he is ready to make amends for his poor debut performance last year as he challenges 2015 Sanlam SA Amateur Championship winner Daniel Young from Scotland and compatriots Teaghan Gauche, Andre Nel and Jade Buitendag for the leading amateur honour.
“After a stern examination of my two rounds last year, I realised that my strategy off the tees, poor club choices and bad course management sunk my campaign before it even began,” Strydom said.
“This course is extremely deceptive. It looks straightforward, but it demands incredible accuracy. You also have to put yourself in the right spots off the tee to guarantee a decent approach to the greens.
“Last year I was too young and inexperienced and I didn’t manage myself well, at all. Most of my tee shots put me in trouble and there was no real plan to talk of.”
Strydom is once again sitting at the top of the national amateur standings, but that does not tell the full story of a disjointed season.
The Serengeti golfer flew out of the blocks with a hat-trick of wins at the Western Province, Boland Amateur and KZN Open Stroke Play Championships and protected his ranking with a runner-up finish in the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship.
He represented South Africa in the Southern Cross Invitational in Argentina and the Leopard Trophy against Scotland at Leopard Creek early in the season, but shortly after he returned with the team from the Africa Zone VI Golf Tournament in Uganda in April, the big-hitting Strydom was devastated to learn that his season was effectively over.
“I joined the Swingfit Golf Academy in Paarl in April and during a fitness assessment, the evaluators picked up critical problems with my spine,” Strydom explained.
“The scans and analysis showed that my L5 disc was bulging severely and I had two stress fractures in my spine. This was a very serious blow to my season. I really wanted to make the eight-man squad that toured and competed in the United Kingdom in June.
“I was hugely disappointed, but I had to focus on my long term prospects, so I did the time.”
Being on the bench meant Strydom also missed out on the action at the Premier SA Inter-Provincial, but serving as Ekurhuleni’s assistant coach afforded him the chance to become even better acquainted with Glendower.
“It’s easy to understand why Glendower is the number one ranked course in Ekurhuleni,” he said.
“I saw parts of this course that I didn’t even know existed and I also had a front seat to the kind of shots you simply cannot hit at this layout.
“Of course, I also watched the guys who hit the winners and learned a lot. Hopefully all the experience will add up to a great week. I’ve played two practice rounds and everything feels great.
“The greens are rolling fast and true, the fairways are green and the rough is lush. It’s not quite as long as last year, but it’s still penal and you just have to avoid it altogether. My back is in good shape and I’m striking the ball well, so I do a feel a lot more confident of my chances this year.”