Altin Van der Merwe seizes lead at African Amateur with sizzling 65

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Altin van der Merwe (Credit: R&A.)

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Altin van der Merwe continued his rich vein of form by firing a superb bogey-free 65 to take the lead in the Africa Amateur Championship after the second round at Leopard Creek.

The 27-year-old, who last week won the Golf RSA International Amateur after emerging victorious in a dramatic play-off, holds a one-shot advantage over countryman Ivan Verster at the halfway mark of the inaugural championship on a ten-under-par total of 134.

The South African got off to a fast start with back-to-back birdies on the opening holes and then picked up another shot on the 4th. His round sparked into life again at the 10th with another birdie before finishing strongly with successful birdie putts on the 13th, 16th and 18th holes.

“I’m very, very happy with today’s performance,” said van der Merwe.

“I would say that I played the same golf as yesterday, only that a couple of more putts fell in. I had one or two mistakes yesterday and told myself if I can just minimise the mistakes then I’ll play two or three shots better, and that’s what happened.”

Verster posted a 69, including three birdies in a row from the 11th, for a nine-under-par total of 135. The South African rounded off today’s performance with a birdie on the par-5 18thto sit in second place, two shots clear of another home player, Jordan Burnand, who is in third spot on seven-under-par after his 68.

“It was a good performance today,” said Verster.

“I’m feeling confident about the weekend. Like I said yesterday, the putter has been a bit cold for a couple of weeks but I’m hitting the ball nicely and rolling in a few putts now. It was really nice to finish with a birdie. Whenever you can hit that green in two or be able to go for it, you have to hit a good shot, so it’s really pleasing to end the round like that.”

“It was another solid round,” said Burnand. “It started off difficult with one or two bogeys and then I got the momentum going. I had birdies on five  and six  and then it was about playing percentage golf, which is key on this course.

“The eagle was cool. I hit a great drive and then a 9-iron to about 15 feet and holed the putt down the hill. It really kick-started the round and I could build from there. It’s always nice to finish birdie-birdie and making one on the 18th hole is always special. I’m very happy with the round.”

Overnight leader Matthew Bramford slipped down the leaderboard after a two-over-par 74 to finish the round in fourth place on five-under, while top-ranked player Christiaan Maas carded a 69 to remain in the hunt on four-under.

Issa Abou Ela matched van der Merwe’s 65 to finish the second round in tied sixth alongside Simon du Plooy on three-under-par.

The Egyptian rolled in eight birdies in a prolific performance, including a near hole-in-one at the 16th, with the only blemish to his card coming with a bogey at the par-5 2nd.

“I can’t put into words how hard this golf course is so to be able to shoot 65, honestly, it’s a score that I’ll never forget,” said Ela.

“I almost had a hole-in-one on 16. I got sent some videos from people back home, especially my family, and realised it just missed the hole. A round like that gives me a lot of confidence and I’ve managed to put myself in position after the second  round. I’m looking forward to the weekend and whatever happens, happens.”

The cut fell on 14-over-par with 40 players advancing.

Kyra van Kan still holds the lead in the Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational after a one-under-par 71.

The South African recovered from back-to-back double bogeys before the turn to maintain her nerve and respond with three birdies in a row during the back nine.

The 18-year-old sits six shots ahead of compatriot Gia Raad on a one-under-par total of 143.

“I got off to a good start and was two-under through six holes but unfortunately I messed up on seven and eight and made two doubles in a row,” said van Kan.

“I was back to square one but I just pulled myself together and refocused. Then I played really nicely on the back nine and made three birdies in a row on 13, 14 and 15. I was really happy to par the 18th hole. That hole doesn’t sit particularly well with me. I’m glad I finished pretty well today.”

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