Smith leads strong SA attack at St Andrews

JasonSmith1_GNGUST ANDREWS, Scotland (2 June 2016) – Former SA Stroke Play champion Jason Smith will lead a nine-strong South African pack against a vast group of international challengers in the prestigious St Andrews Links Trophy.

The 72-hole championship tees off at the Home of Golf’s New Course on Friday, with action switching to the famous Old Course for the second round on Saturday.

Based on the strength of the field, the St Andrews Links Trophy is ranked one of the strongest amateur tournaments in the world, and it is arguably one of the strongest championships outside the Amateur Championship in the British Isles.

Smith and fellow Golf RSA National Squad members Jovan Rebula, Albert Venter, James du Preez, Andre Nel, Tristen Strydom, Aubrey Beckley and Kyle McClatchie got their feet wet in the Carrick Neill Scottish Open Stroke Play Championship at Gullane Golf Club last week. McClatchie was the lone South African to survive the cut and posted an impressive top nine finish.

Ekurhuleni’s Angus Ellis-Cole further strengthens the country’s presence at St Andrews.

Last year, the South African posse started their annual trip to the United Kingdom at the St Andrews Links Trophy, but foul weather sent the entire cast packing after organisers were forced to cancel the second round.

“It was a huge blow to the team, because we all started poorly and was counting on the second round to make up some ground,” Smith said. “This year we had a chance to warm up at the Scottish Stroke Play and we have had the benefit of a few practice rounds at St Andrews to become properly acquainted with links layouts.”

The South Africans from part of a large international entry looking to break the British stronghold on the championship.

Since its inception in 1989, only three international competitors have won the St Andrews Links Trophy, including Australian Stuart Bouvier in 1990 and Dutchman Daan Huizing in 2012.

Last year, Federico Zucchetti from Milan became the first Italian to succeed after the Molinari brothers, Eduardo and Francesco, as well as Matteo Mannaserro failed in recent years.

“It’s definitely not easy to beat the Brits at home, but last week an Australian showed us that it can be done at the Scottish Stroke Play,” McClatchie said.

“It is imperative, though, that we start well, but it will depend on the draw and the weather.  Like last week, most of the South Africans had early tee times in the first round at Gullane and the conditions were really rough with high winds and mist.

“I had the benefit of a late start and teed off in relatively mild weather and it made all the difference to my start in the championship. The conditions will definitely have an impact, especially here at St Andrews with the open layout.”

Smith will start the SA challenge at 07h00, followed by Ellis-Cole, Venter, Beckley, Strydom and McClatchie, while Nel leads the afternoon starters that includes Du Preez and Rebula.

PHOTO – Jason Smith from Gauteng North; credit Roger Sedres.