The prestigious South African Stroke Play Championship trophy is back in French hands after Edgar Catherine triumphed at Kingswood Golf Estate on Friday.
Only two years after France celebrated their first champion in the premier international amateur championship, the 18-year-old from the South of France overcame his ‘Kingswood demons’ to march to a two-stroke victory on 11-under 269.
Catherine also became the third successive international winner when he followed last year’s champion Jack Hume from Ireland in to the winner’s circle.
In 2015, Ugo Coussaud showed some real French flair to hold off South Africa’s Rupert Kaminski in the final round at Port Elizabeth Golf Club and it wasn’t much different for Catherine.
The Golf d’Aix en Province golfer traveled to Kingswood in 2013 as a member of the French team that competed in the Ten Nations Cup. At the end of a tough week, the 14-year-old finished stone last in the field of 36 players.
His apprehension at facing the links-style Garden Route layout in this year’s championship can certainly be appreciated. However, he produced rounds of 66, 68 and 65 at the par-70 layout to start the final round only one shot shy of Robin Dawson, who was eyeing an Irish double.
Catherine gained the upper-hand early on after Dawson surrendered four shots at the fourth, fifth and sixth holes, but he also stumbled with back-to-back bogeys at seven and eight. The Frenchman birdied the 10th to get his challenge back on track and opened up a two shot lead on Dawson with another superb birdie at 14.
At the par-5 16th, he missed the green left, but produced a magnificent chip shot out of the valley to leave himself a two-footer for birdie.
Catherine had one hand on the trophy with a three shot lead and two holes to play, but he pulled his tee shot left at 17 and had to play a blind second shot into the green. The pin was set right at the back and his approach finished on the front. He tried to close the distance, but left his first putt well short and his par putt sailed past the hole.
The three-putt bogey gave Dawson a glimmer of hope, but Catherine drove the middle of the green at 18 and two-putted for the two shot win.
Catherine closed with an even-par 70, and Dawson had to settle for second at 9 under after a 73.
Dan Brown from England closed with a 65 and Frenchman Frédéric LaCroix fired a 65 to tie for third on 272, with South Africa’s Brandon Cloete a further two strokes adrift in joint fifth after a final round 71. Cloete shared fifth with Scotland’s Liam Johnston, who signed for a 69.
‘I was a little nervous playing the last few holes,’ said Catherine. ‘I know that it looks like I had control all day, but it was really tough. I hit 12 fairways, so the driver worked well and my iron play was good also, but the putter wasn’t working.
‘I missed a lot of chances, but at least I made the ones that counted. I really fought as hard as I could and left everything on the golf course. I played as well as I could have. Lifting this trophy means a lot to me. I lost my fear of Kingswood in the first round and I played well this week. I’m just over the moon to win this championship.’
Catherine’s victory continues the foreign dominance of South Africa’s premier amateur events over the past few years.
Craig Ross became the fourth Scot in six years to lift the Sanlam South Africa Amateur Championship title at George Golf Club last year, but Catherine believes a French double is not out of the question when the flagship event tees off at Humewood Golf Club at the end of the month.
‘Humewood is also a links course, so this week was really good preparation for Port Elizabeth and perhaps me or one of the other players on the national squad will make it a double celebration for France,’ he said.
By Lali Stander
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