Sugrue just two back as Val Velzen collapses at African Amateur

John Craven

James Sugrue i(Photo by Luke Walker/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

John Craven

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James Sugrue has closed to within two shots of the lead on a day of incredible scoring at the African Amateur at Leopard Creek.

It was hard to keep up with the moving day twists and turns as South African Ryan Van Velzen, who had race to 14-under par through two rounds, let the chasing pack back into the tournament with an 83 on Wednesday.

It meant Mallow’s Sugrue, who started the day seven shots back, moved to within two shots despite not having his best stuff in delivering a six-over par round of 78.

“It was pretty windy today and it was also extremely warm,” said Sugrue. “There were some very cheeky pin positions out there too but I didn’t play great. It was definitely a good few shots tougher than yesterday.”

Sugrue managed just one birdie on a brutally tough day of scoring but at one-under par ahead of the final day, he’s just one of three players in the red going into the last round.

Van Velzen, who had looked unflappable for the first two days, racked up a nine at the par-3 7th amongst his shortcomings and was joined by compatriot Martin Vorster atop the board at three-under par.

That’s a name that should ring familiar to Irish golf fans as Vorster was a 17-year old South African raider who put the East of Ireland field to the sword by four strokes at Baltray last year.

Dundalk ace Caolan Rafferty lived up to the name with a hole-in-one at the par-3 12th and he isn’t out of it either after battling his way to a superb one-under par round of 71.

At plus-one for the tournament, the Maynooth scholar is just four back as he looks to time his ascent up the leaderboard whilst enjoying another fruitful trip to South Africa.

Rafferty’s second ace of his career in tournament play came from a pitching wedge from 145 yards.

“I got the yardage, picked a club, and tried to hit a shot,” he said. “It was one of those funny ones. I didn’t really catch it and turned away in a bit of disgust. As I was turning back, I heard my playing partner telling it to go in, and I was like, ‘Sorry, that can’t be right!’ And as I turned round, it just disappeared!”

Holywood’s Tom McKibbin was another at his grinding best in posting one-over par round of 73 to move inside the top-15 at five-over.

Malone’s Matthew McClean was another positive mover on Wednesday after signing for a two-under par round of 70 to jump inside the top-25 after a tough start to the tournament.

Naas amateur Rob Brazill was able to hang tough also with his third round 73 good enough to keep him inside the cut mark, thus making it into the last day at 13-over par.

With the required number falling at plus-15, Carton House’s Keith Egan fell one shot short after returning his best round of the week by some distance, a one-under par 71.

Hermitage’s Rowan Lester finished a shot further back at plus-17 after a disappointing round of 82 while Massereene’s Tiarnan McLarnon endured a miserable day that required 94 forgettable wallops to complete.

Full scoring HERE

South Africa squad to play the African Amateur (3-6 Feb) at Leopard Creek and the South African Stroke Play (10-13 Feb) in Randpark:

Robert Brazill (Naas); Keith Egan (Carton House); Rowan Lester (Hermitage); Matthew McClean (Malone); Tom McKibbin (Holywood); Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene); Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk); James Sugrue (Mallow)

The GUI’s High Performance Programme is supported by Sport Ireland and Sport NI.

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