SAMUEL Simpson claimed the Proudfoot Trophy for topping the 36-hole strokeplay qualifier for the matchplay stage of the Aon South African Amateur Championship.
After hitting possibly the best two-iron of his life, it set up what turned out to be a decisive eagle for Simpson.
After making three birdies in the opening seven holes to pull himself into a share of the lead, which stood at 10-under after Casey Jarvis set the clubhouse target in the morning at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in the morning, Simpson eagled eight.
That put him into a lead he never relinquished as South African Simpson made one more birdie on his way in after the turn and saw off the challenging group that included England’s Joe Long and Haider Hussain, who maintained their form from last week’s South African Stroke Play Championship at Randpark, where they finished in the top 10.
Seventeen-year-old Simpson, from the Western Province, said: “I took three-wood off the tee on the eighth hole just to put myself into position.
“I had 245 to the flag and I hit a great two-iron to about three feet and rolled that one in for eagle. That was really cool.”
There are some big names on the Proudfoot Trophy, including Masters winner Trevor Immelman, European Tour winners Brandon Stone and Haydn Porteous.
And more recently, that list includes former Freddie Tait Cup winner Jovan Rebula, the 2018 Amateur Champion, who is the nephew of four-time Major winner Ernie Els.
“It’s great,” said Simpson. “I haven’t really thought about the names that have been on it, but it will be really cool to see my name on it in the future.”
The East Course at Royal Johannesburg is a stern test and, for Simpson to have gone bogey-free as he held on to his three-stroke edge over Jarvis, countryman Christiaan Maas and Gloucestershire’s Joseph Long was an impressive feat.
He felt his putter let him down somewhat in last week’s South African Stroke Play, which Jarvis romped away with.
“It was not the best putting performance from me last week,” said Simpson. “This week, it’s only two weeks done, but the putter was definitely rolling and I’m looking forward to more like it in the match play.”
Jarvis got it to 11-under as he looked to be on his way to a possible second title inside seven days.
But he incurred a penalty stroke for inadvertently marking and lifting his ball which was just on the edge of a green.
That saw him finish at 10-under, and although that was three strokes back, he was still in a good place going into this week’s matchplay.
“I played some good golf out there,” said Jarvis. “I’m really confident heading into the matchplay. I’m pleased for my friend Sam for winning the Proudfoot – he deserves it because he’s been playing very well lately.”
LONG’S seven-under-par 65 will be the new course record at Royal after the course underwent some extensive renovation and changes ahead of its reopening last year in January.
The Lansdowne Golf Club member started his round with a bogey on the 10th, which could have disheartened him, but didn’t.
“I had a good bounce-back after the bogey with two birdies in a row,” said Long who lost in the final of the 2018 English Amateur to Sussex’s Tom Thurloway.
The member of the England team over the past two years added: “And then I had another bogey. I dropped the eagle on 18. It was two great shots in and I holed an 18-footer.
“Then I hit another two good shots and holed a six-footer on one. The putter was just on fire, really.”
As the top 64 players go into the matchplay, on Tuesday, the East Course is going to ask some questions of them as they scheme to bring down an opponent, rather than trying to overpower the course.
Long added: “There are some really demanding tee shots that you have to step up and commit to.
“There are tighter fairways. I prefer that and I’m mentally prepared for that,” said Long, who first visited South Africa two winters ago with fellow Gloucestershire team-mate Mitch Waite – who went on to play in the Eisenhower Trophy in 2018, and is now playing on the EuroPro Tour.
For Simpson, the satisfaction of winning the Proudfoot Trophy helps his state of mind going into the shoot-out which is match play.
“I started yesterday with a nice seven-under, which put me in a good position to go out there today and shoot a low number,” said Simpson.
“I just have to put things into perspective and tell myself that it’s only two rounds done. There are a lot of matchplay rounds left. I’ve just got to focus on going out there tomorrow and playing the best I can.”
The final spots for the first round of the knock-out stages were decided in a 10-man play-off on two-over-par, with Frenchman Elliot Anger and South Africans Siyanda Mwandla and Christopher Gutuza coming up trumps.
Also through to the knockout is Yorkshire’s Hampshire Salver winner Sam Bairstow, who was fifth, on the same score as Norfolk’s James Biggs and Scotland’s Darren Howie and Conor Wilson.
Scotland’s Stuart Easton and James Wilson, were 30th and 33rd respectively after both carded rounds of 70 and 71 over the two days to make into the draw.
Wiltshire’s Scottish Amateur Strokeplay Champion Jake Bolton, from Ogbourne Downs, who led qualifying at the English Amateur in August, was 37th after two rounds of 71.
Peterborough and Milton England international Robin Williams finished in 45th place, while Harleyford’s Peter Handcock also made it through.
The latter lost to Amateur Champion Scott Gregory in his first taste of a national championshp in the English at The Berkshire in 2017, recovered from an opening 75 to card a 69 and grabbed 48th place.