ENGLAND are guaranteed at least one player in the semi-finals of the South African Amateur Championship with B.B.&O. county player Olly Huggins meeting Jake Bolton in Thursday’s quarter-final.
Frilford Heath’s Huggins – who lost a play-off for the African Amateur Championship two weeks ago – will be up against Wiltshire’s Bolton at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC, a regular venue on the European Tour for the Joburg Open.
Jake Bolton has been climbing up the rankings over the past year – boosted by victory in the Scottish Amateur Strokeplay Championship, in August.
The runner-up in last year’s Hampshire Salver, after losing a play-off in the Selborne Salver at Blackmoor – against England junior international Charlie Strickland – has been promoted to the England A squad as result.
And the Ogborne Downs member beat another Englishman in the shape of Haider Hussain, winning the 18th to go two-up to book his place in the last eight.
That was the match-up that Huggins, from Oxfordshire, was keen to have after he pulled off a pair of 4&3 wins – over South African Nash de Klerk in the morning, and over the imposing Nordin van Tilburg, from the Netherlands, in the afternoon’s third round.
“I’m really happy,” said Huggins. “I’m hitting my driver really good, hitting the fairway, and my caddie is giving me good lines.
“I’ve been struggling the last two weeks with lines.”
The Oxfordshire ace got it to five-up through 12, but then Van Tilburg came back at him after lunch.
“I knew he was going to come back at me with a couple of birdies,” said Huggins. “I was ready for it, and he holed some really good putts coming in, and I just made a 20-footer on 15 to close him out.”
Jake Bolton also finished first in the strokeplay qualifer at last year’s Amateur Championship, played at North Hants GC, and Hankley Common, but lost in the second round to Surrey’s Lewis Hinton.
England’s selectors sent the A squad to South Africa hoping to see them emulate the success of Yorkshire’s Ben Schmidt, who claimed the New South Wales Open, in Australia, last month.
And their hopes of producing the first English winner of the South African Amateur title since Somerset’s Laurie Canter back in 2010, were strengthened by results in the bottom half of the draw.
Gloucestershire’s Joe Long defeated South Africa’s Luca Filippi 3&2 and will now play Aneurin Gounden – one of four players from the host country still left in the competition.
Long was beaten in the final of the English Amateur two years ago by Sussex’s Tom Thurloway.
And having reached the quarter-final in the South African Amateur three years ago, he is still on course to claim a first international victory.
He has the motivation of wanting to play in the Eisenhower Trophy later this year, having seen his county team-mate Mitch Waite – who joined him on their first trip to South Africa three years ago – go on to become a full England international, and play in the last World Amateur Team Championship at Ireland’s Carton House, in 2018.
Long made his Home Internationals debut as England won the Raymond Trophy at Conway GC, off the back of losing to Thurloway at Formby GC, but lost his place in 2019 despite finishing third in the European Amateur Championship.
Having qualified in second place in the strokeplay qualifier earlier this week, and gone close in the South African Amateur Strokeplay Championship last week, Long will be longing to make it into Friday’s final.
But first he must beat Gounden, who went all the way to the 21st hole before he downed Gergory McKay – and that was after he took 19 holes to defeat Scotland’s Darren Howie in the morning.
But the English trio will be wary of the Auld Enemy and respect Scotland’s record of having produced four of the last 10 South African Amateur Champions.
James Wilson, who is dreaming of becoming a fifth Scottish winner in a decade, beat England Boys international Robin Williams 4&3.
The Peterborough Milton teenager made his own history by winning a MENA Tour event as an amateur before Christmas and would have been eyeing his first international men’s amateur title.
The youngest champion in the Aon South African Amateur championship, Christo Lamprecht, overcame a shaky two-hole win in the morning over another Scot – Connor Wilson – to run out a 4&3 winner over Dutchman Koen Kouwenaar, last year’s Spanish Amateur Champion.
Reigning South African Stroke Play Champion Casey Jarvis kept his ‘double’ dream alive when he overcame left-handed Frenchman Nicolas Muller, on the 20th hole, in a tough match.
Jarvis’ win came after 4&2 win over compatriot and 2019 finalist Jordan Duminy in the morning’s second round.
Maas makes charge by knocking out African Stroke Play champ Vorster
YOUNG gun Christiaan Maas charged through an open door after Martin Vorster’s putter deserted him, to play his way into the quarter-finals.
The 15-year-old Pretoria junior defeated Vorster by one when the African Amateur Stroke Play champion left his eagle putt on 18 agonisingly short – a putt which would have handed him the hole – and a chance to extend the match into sudden-death.
For Maas, there is the thrill of playing in the quarters that awaits him.
“I’m taking a lot of confidence from the win into the quarter-finals,” Mass said.
“Now I know I’ve beaten Martin, who has won all over the world, and he’s a great player. I feel like my game’s almost there, but I must get a little bit better.”
Mass stepped up and nervelessly rammed home a 10-footer to seal the victory and set up a quarter-final clash with another Scot – James Wilson.
The GolfRSA Junior Protea got to two-up through the 11th. But his lead was cut to just one after the 13th when Vorster made birdie to arrest his slide, which had started with bogeys on nine and 11.
“I played extremely good golf this morning,” said Maas of his 4&3 win in the previous round over Germany’s Connor Engelmohr.
“And my putter was on fire. In the afternoon, my putter went a bit cold, but I managed to not make a drop against Martin.
“Unfortunately for him, his putter went cold on the back nine, and fortunately for me, I made a 10-footer on the last to win.
“He’s a very tough opponent. He hits it miles, great iron-play, his putter was just a bit cold today.”
Vorster had two earlier opportunities down the stretch to pull things back.
After Maas hit the flag with his birdie chip on the 16th, Vorster missed his birdie putt on the right edge. Then, on 17, he had a three-footer for birdie and it just missed the edge.
“My putting let me down today,” said Vorster.
•To follow the results of Jake Bolton, Olly Huggins and Joe Long in the quarter-finals, click here.