27 May 2014
The country’s top ranked mid-amateur Greg Sheard will lead a four-man team nominated to fly the flag for South Africa at the prestigious International Team Mid-Amateur Championship in France this July.
Mid-Amateur golf is contested by non-professional players over the age of 35.
Western Province’s Sheard will line up alongside Josef Fourie from Free State, Central Gauteng’s David Muller and Graeme Watson from Ekurhuleni – ranked second, fourth and fifth respectively – in the top international team competition at the Medoc Hotel & Spa Golf Club in the Gironde region from 18 to 20 July.
South African Golf Association assistant executive director Neil Homann will manage the team. He said participation in a team competition of this standard is very exciting for South African Mid-Amateur golf.
“The championship will be contested between 16 international teams,” he said. “It will give South Africa international exposure where we can test ourselves and see how the level of Mid-Amateur Golf in South Africa compares to the level in Europe.”
The format of the International Team Mid-Amateur Championship will see the field compete in an 18-hole stroke play qualifier. The top three scores from each country will count towards the team’s total and the teams will then be seeded into two groups of eight.
Teams then play two full day matches, consisting of foursomes and singles, to determine the final tournament finishing positions.
The South Africans will also line up in a test against France, in addition to participating in the International Team Mid-Amateur Championship.
“We are still finalising the details, but the test will take place either before or after International Team Mid-Amateur Championship,” Homann said.
“It’s another fantastic opportunity for the players to enhance their experience and to fly the flag for South Africa.”
Touch and go
While Sheard, Fourie and Muller were quietly confident of making the team before the Volvo SA Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship earlier this month, it was touch and go for Watson.
He had been near the top of the SA Mid-Amateur rankings for more than two years, but impending knee replacement surgery forced the Ekurhuleni golfer to cut down on his schedule.
After dropping significantly in the rankings, the 47-year-old former professional was under huge pressure going into the mid-amateur circuit’s flagship event at Ruimsig Country Club.
“On the one hand, surgery, and on the other, the chance to compete in France against teams from around the globe,” said Watson.
“It was a no-brainer for me. I had to make the team, because it’s a once off opportunity. I can always go under the knife another time. I knew going into the championship that it would be tough, because I needed at least a top three finish.”
Watson secured his spot on the team with a four-stroke victory over Steve Williams.
“I guess making the team was all the inspiration I needed,” he said. “We don’t get a lot of international opportunities at mid-amateur level, but everyone needs an incentive to play for.
“We were very disappointed last year when our annual test against Namibia was cancelled, so the opportunity to go and compete in this championship in France was a huge carrot for me.
“I had a string of bogeys to start the final round, but I thought about the team and the trip and it was all I needed to pull it back and win the Stroke Play.”