The crème de la crème of South African amateur golf will be in action in the 57th Premier South African Inter-Provincial Championship, sponsored by Tempest, at Bryanston Country Club from Monday to Sunday.
Central Gauteng and Western Province have monopolised the A-Section in the country’s largest national team championship. The host union won six times and Western Province has racked up seven victories since 2000.
However, the layout at Bryanston is a great leveller and the tournament favourites could come under fire over the next five days.
Defending champions Southern Cape mowed down log-leaders Gauteng North in a pressure-packed final round tussle at the Fish River Sun Resort last year to lift the title for the first time since the Garden Route side joined in the country’s premier team event in 2009.
Nicholas Mitchell, Henk Geldenhuys, Callum Boon and Hans-Jurie Human return for duty with the mainstay Ivan Williams, who took the Most Valuable Player honour last year. And the side is further boosted by stand-outs Heinrich Frylinck, Ben van Wyk and Martin Vorster, the reigning Nomads SA Boys U-15 champion and recent Italian International Under-16 Championship winner.
KwaZulu-Natal earned the coveted promotion with an unbeaten performance at the Fish River Sun last year. This year’s squad boasts national players Malcolm Mitchell, Matt Saulez and Clayton Mansfield – all ranked inside the current top 10 on the Open Amateur standings.
With IPT veteran Gavin Sole from Southbroom at the helm and the combined experience of Derek Scullard, Siyanda Mwandla, Greg McKay and Jason Broomhead in support, the 2009 champions could pose a real threat this year. Margate legend Ivan Curlewis is the manager of the team.
Gauteng North, keen to end a three-year title-drought, has brought a strong offensive with inform youngsters Nicholas Frade, Dylan Kok, Dawid Opperman and Keegan Mclachlan and experienced campaigners Richard Joubert, David Nortje, Peetie and Christopher van der Merwe.
Ekurhuleni, the runner’s up last year, has 2017 English Men’s Stroke Play champion Kyle McClatchie and reigning English Boys U-14 champion Casey Jarvis.
It has Dimension Data Junior Open Under-15 Challenge winner Nash de Klerk and Yurav Premlall, fresh from a top 20 finish in his international debut at the Italian International Under-16 Championship.
It has the firing power from proven winners Angus Ellis-Cole, Aneurin Gounden and Vaughan van Deventer. And it has Jordan Burnand, who got the nod when the country’s top ranked junior Jayden Schaper made the International Team for the Junior Presidents Cup.
“This is arguably the youngest squad we’ve ever fielded at the SA IPT, but they are a talented bunch of fighters,” said Ekurhuleni president Martin Saayman.
“Yurav and Casey are 14 and Nash is only 13 years and eight months old. They are younger than Ernie Els was when he represented Eastern Transvaal 33 years ago. Kyle is just 20. Aneurin and Vaughan are 19, Jordan is 17 and at 22, Angus is the old man on the team.
“But the rankings tell us age is not an issue. Kyle leads the Open Amateur rankings, while Yurav, Casey and Nash occupy the top three spots in the SAGA Under 15 Junior Rankings.
“We place a huge premium on development at Ekurhuleni Golf Union and experience is the best way to help players evolve, mature and improve. All these players earned their places on the team and the right to compete against the best talent in South Africa.
“Like all the other teams, we want to hoist the trophy on Friday, but we also want to come away from this championship knowing that our players have gained top class experience that will help them to the reach the next level.”
Team manager Gavin Homan said it’s exciting to take such a young team into the battle.
“The good thing about the youngsters is that they don’t scare easily,” said Homan. “They can barely wait to get started. And we have guys like Kyle, Angus and Anuerin to guide them. It may be a young side, but we have a lot of confidence in them.”
The B-Section battle for promotion could prove just as tough to predict.
Boland were smarting after their relegation last year, while Eastern Province and North West both lost out to KwaZulu-Natal at the Fish River Sun.
All three teams will be champing at the bit to win the coveted promotion, but they will need a fast start in Monday’s opening matches with Mpumalanga, Eastern Province, Free State and Limpopo also gunning for success.
FIRST ROUND DRAW – A-SECTION:
Southern Cape vs KwaZulu-Natal
Ekurhuleni vs Central Gauteng
Gauteng North vs Western Province
FIRST ROUND DRAW – B-SECTION:
Boland vs Border vs North West
Mpumalanga vs Eastern Province vs Free State
Bye – Limpopo
Photo: Team KwaZulu-Natal consist of (front) Malcolm Mitchell, Ivan Curlewis (Manager), Gavin Sole (Captain), Matt Saulez, (back) Jason Broomhead, Clayton Mansfield, Siyanda Mwandla, Derek Scullard and Gregory Mckay. (Ernest Blignault)