South Africa celebrated a crushing victory in the inaugural Golf Test Series against India at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club on Sunday.
The South African team vowed to win the Test for fallen team-mate Mellette Hendrikse. True to their word, the four-man senior and mid-Amateur sides clinched six of the eight Singles matches to defeat the host nation 11.5 – 4.5.
‘Our boys played really well throughout the Test,’ said elated team manager Jock Wellington. ‘Every time one of us struggled, someone else stepped it up and this victory was really a superb team effort. The course was set up quite long, which I don’t thing suited the Indian seniors, but hats off to them – they showed unbelievable spirit and never backed down. This was a great experience for both teams and we all enjoyed ourselves very much.’
With pride on the line, the Indian team started the Singles with vengeance and all the mid-amateurs bar Gerlou Roux was on the back foot early on.
‘Josef Fourie was first out and he was two down after seven holes to H S Kang,” said assistant manager David Younge. “Josie hooked his drive into the trees on the eighth, but he showed some great depth of character to fight back to lead 2-up through 16 holes. He gave a shot back a shot at 17, but a careening four-iron from 190 yards into the 18th green left him just 15 feet short of the hole. He rolled the putt straight down the middle of the cup to put our first point on the board.’
Roux from Western Province was on fire in his tussle against Aditya Khaitan.
The two-time SA Mid-Amateur Stroke Play champion won the first three holes and a birdie at the 12th saw him dispatch the Royal Calcutta Golf Club captain 7 & 6 for South Africa’s second point.
‘Gerlou was five under through 12 not surprisingly, he was named Player of the Day,’ Younge said.
‘Shaun (Stapleton) seemed out of sorts for most of the morning and was either down or square for most of his match against Kailash Dhiwar. They were all square going down the last when Stapes rifled a five-wood from 210 yards out to eight feet. Kailash hit an equally superb approach into the heart of the green, but unfortunately he three-putted and Stapes holed for a 1-up victory which effectively won the Golf Test Series for us.’
Stefan Blommaert from Western Province faced India’s number one ranked mid-amateur Simarjeet Singh.
The Western Province player was 2-down early on, but rallied to lead 2-up through the next 14 holes. Singh turned the match in his favour down the home stretch and claimed a 2 & 1 victory at 17.
‘The seniors were the back bone of the team from the first round and even fighting bronchitis, Jock and Morgan (Phillips) left nothing out there,’ said Younge.
‘Jock was rock solid, making par after par, but Amit Luthra made a few birdies coming home that helped the Indian giant to close out a 3 & 2 victory. Poor Morgan was seriously uncomfortable in the humidity with a fever and sweats. I talked to him about stamping our authority on the match and it wasn’t long before he led Anil Jule 2-up through 12 holes.
‘Morgan was still dormie up when they reached the 17th where he drove his tee shot into the dry hazard. The Indian team smelled blood, but in true Houdini style, Morgan hit it centre green and two-putted to win the match 1-up.’
In the final two matches, Western Province’s Francois Le Roux faced Vijay Kumar Bhadana and reigning SA Senior Stroke Play champion Steve Williams went up against Sanjay Kolhatkar.
‘Steve and Francois showed their class with all-round solid displays,’ said Younge. ‘Francois closed out a 3 & 2 win while Steve bided his time to win 3 & 1 to close out our victory.’
South African Golf Association acting president Geoff Taylor said both teams enjoyed seeing Chairman of the Indian Golf Union’s International Committee Dilip Thomas out on the course.
‘We all enjoyed meeting Dilip, who came up with the concept of the Golf Test Series with Johann Rupert and Golf RSA CEO Grant Hepburn during last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. That set the wheels in motion between the Indian Golf Union and South Africa Golf Association and an annual reciprocal partnership was struck.’
Both teams will enjoy a rest day before they do it all again in a friendly test to prepare for the Amateur Golf Championship of India.
The teams will play 36 holes of stroke play with the best five scores of eight to count.
‘We would love to see them challenge for the team component title against the other six countries competing in the Amateur Championship and perhaps one of them will lift the Amateur title, too,’ said Taylor. ‘It would be lovely to come home with a full house.’
By Lali Stander
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