Englishman wins SA Amateur qualifier

England’s Laurie Canter has beaten overnight leader Allan Versveld in a play-off to win the SA Amateur Qualifier.

England’s Laurie Canter issued a warning to his South African contemporaries on Monday when he beat overnight leader Allan Versfeld in a play-off to win the 36-hole, stroke play qualifier at the Glacier SA Amateur.

Versfeld had signed for a 71 at the East London Golf Club on Monday to set a target of eight-under-par 138 for the late finishers, but Canter forced the qualifier into extra time with a four under 69.

The Englishman then drained a stunning 20-foot putt for birdie at the first extra hole to collect the coveted Proudfoot Trophy.

Joy was written all over his face, but Canter was quick to concede that the real tournament, the match play, would only start on Tuesday.

“It’s a real honour to win this trophy,” he said. “I’ve been in South Africa since the end of December but I really struggled to perform in the first couple of tournaments. Now it feels like the hard work is finally paying off.”

The rising Saltford star won several tournaments last season including the Midland Youth Championship, the War Memorial Trophy and the Saltford Salver. After a tie for fifth at the Tilleman Trophy, Canter was called up for England A Squad duty late last year.

“I’m struggling to read the grain here,” admitted Canter, who recently showed is hand with a tie for 12th at the Free State and Northern Cape Open.

“Over the last couple of holes in regular play I lipped out twice so I kind of felt the eighth hole owed me. But that 20-footer in the play-off felt like 50 feet. I’m still shocked that I holed it. Now it’s back to the drawing board for all of us; we are all starting with a clean slate.”

As Canter says, SA Amateur is all about match play, which starts in earnest on Tuesday and ends with a 36-hole final on Friday.

Versfeld, with his booming drives, remains a firm favourite for the national amateur championship.

Small in stature, but packing tremendous power, the 19-year-old from Country Club Johannesburg bears an uncanny similarity to South Africa’s top professionals, Tim Clark and Richard Sterne, off the tee.

He has won three times this season, winning the Mpumalanga U-23 Stroke Play, the Central Gauteng Closed and the Central Gauteng U-23 Stroke Play. He also finished seventh at the SA Stroke Play at Pearl Valley Golf Estates and will represent South Africa in a test against Scotland this month.

“I never expected to do so well at the SA Amateur,” he said. “I’m disappointed to have lost but this was just the qualifier and the real work starts on Tuesday.”

The leading pair finished two clear of Kwazulu-Natal’s Calvin Pearson, who finished a shot ahead of Jaco Grey ling from Heidelberg and Limpopo’s CJ du Plessis on five-under.

Defending champion Ryan Dreyer, who doubled up on 72s to tie for 15th at 142, was joined by current SA Stroke Play champion Dean O’Riley, who bettered his opening 75 by six shots in the second round.