Lombard rallies for KZN win
Pretoria golfer Zander Lombard was delighted to lift the 2013 KwaZulu-Natal Amateur Championship title after a demanding battle against defending champion Haydn Porteous at Umhlali Country Club on Sunday.
The final between South Africa’s two top ranked amateurs was an understandably tight match and Lombard could only celebrate his 2 & 1 victory after both players parred the penultimate hole of the 36-hole final.
Lombard won the Bank Windhoek Namibia Open Golf Championships at Windhoek Country Club in April, but after a five months of close calls, the 18-year-old was absolutely delighted to get the monkey off his back and claim his first victory on home soil.
“I’ve come close a lot of times this season, but I’ve just not been able to pull it through,” he said. “I had a lot of runner-up and top five finishes. I think I must have lost to Haydn, I don’t know, four or five times this season. He was a fantastic opponent and he really kept me on my toes out there. But I have to say, it’s really nice to finish in front of him for a change.”
However, Lombard will only have a day or two to celebrate before he takes his winning form to Europe alongside the SA No 1 Porteous, who successfully defended his KwaZulu-Natal Amateur Championship Stroke Play title on Thursday.
“It’s actually great, if you think about it, with us both winning just before we compete in the St Andrews Links Trophy and the British Amateur,” he said.
“This is the kind of form you want to have when you’re going up against the top players in Europe. We are both going to the United States in July, too. I’m playing The Players Amateur in South Carolina and Haydn the US Amateur.”
Porteous seized the early initiative with a birdie at the third, but Lombard squared the match at the third hole, took control with a par against a bogey from Porteous at the sixth and turned 3-up after a birdie at the eighth and par at the ninth.
Lombard kept his lead in tact until Porteous eagled the 13th and his advantage dwindled to 1-up when he bogeyed the 14th. He took the lead back to 2-up with a birdie at 15, but successive bogeys at 16 and 17 left the pair at all-square with 18 holes to go.
“I failed to get up and down at 16 and I three-putted at the 17th, which was a bit frustrating,” Lombard said. “But I was playing well, tee to green, so I knew I could win. I just needed to stay patient and keep the bogeys off my card.”
The Pretoria golfer took immediate control with a gutsy birdie at the 19th hole and increased the pressure on his opponent with successive birdies at the 23rd and 24th holes.
Lombard turned 4-up after Porteous bogeyed the ninth.
“Haydn birdied the 10th, but he dropped again at the 11th, so I was 4-up with seven to play,” the champion explained. “I knew I just need to keep my head down, focus and limit the mistakes.”
After Porteous took a shot off Lombard’s lead with an eagle at the 31st hole, the par-five 13th, both players birdied the 32nd and parred the 33rd holes.
Porteous cut Lombard’s advantage to 2-up with a birdie at the 34th hole, but the country’s No 1 handed Lombard the victory when he matched his opponent’s par at the 35th hole.
Lombard credited Tuksgolf Club and Academies head coach and technical director, Llewellyn van Leeuwen, who has also been coaching the South African Golf Association’s national amateur teams, and said the victory was down to putting.
“I’ve always been a streaky putter, but last year around June I changed my putter and Llewellyn changed my technique,” he explained.
“I started using a Titleist Tour only, but it took a couple of months for the new putter and the changes to gel.
“It started coming together at the Leopard Trophy against Scotland at Leopard Creek and since then, I’ve been more consistent and the putts are dropping regularly.”