Cold putter forces McElroy to settle for second

Ballymena's Dermot McElroy blamed a cold putter as he finished tied for second behind local hero Jason Smith in the South African Amateur Strokeplay in Johannesburg.

Just a shot behind Scotland's Bradley Neil overnight, the 20-year old North of Ireland Strokeplay champion briefly took the lead with five holes to play but finished with four pars and a birdie for a 71 and was overtaken by Smith, who birdied the 16th and 18th to card a 69 and win by one on 14 under par.

McElroy share second place with Neil (72) and South Africa's Stefan Cronje, who had a hole in one at the 12th and birdies at the 13th and 14th to take the lead before bogeys at the 15th and 17th undid his challenge.

“I played really well, but it was all about putting,” McElroy told the South African Golf Association website. “Four birdies and three bogeys were not too bad, but I missed seven six-footers for birdie.

"When you are putting like that, you can’t expect to win. It was Jason’s day and he was a deserved winner.

“But at least I improved on my fifth place last year; that’s something positive to take home with me.”

Final scoreboard

It was a great week for the Irish with West Waterford's Gary Hurley and Moyola Park's Chris Selfridge getting into the mix with early charges in the final round.

Hurley finished tied for 11th on nine under par after a 68 and was only denied a top ten finish by a bogey at the 17th.

"Two good weeks in SA," he tweeted. "T5th and a T11th :) nice to shoot -20 for the 8 rounds #learning"

Selfridge was also hot on the final day as he birdied the first and second and followed a bogey at the fifth with a birdie at the seventh and an eagle three at the ninth to turn in 32.

 2014 South African Stroke Play champion Jason Smith. Credit Dale Boyce /

 2014 South African Stroke Play champion Jason Smith. Credit Dale Boyce /

Further birdies at the 10th and 11th left him just two shots off the lead on 10 under par after. But he ended up coming home in level par 36 for a 68 and a share of 16th on eight under as he followed a bogey at the 13th and a birdie at the next with a costly double bogey six at the 17th.

"Very disappointing finish to a great day's golf," Selfridge tweeted. "Was nice to be in contention though. #onwardsandupwards"

Naas' Jack Hume was joint 19th on seven under after a 69 while Portmarnock's Geoff Lenehan closed with a 73 to share of 27th on four under.

Mourne's Reeve Whitson birdied two of his last three holes for a 70 to finish tied 44th on level par while Balbriggan's Robbie Cannon signed off with a 72 to share 58th on four over.

As for McElroy, the Ulsterman got off to a slow start and was one over par before reeling off a hat-trick of birdies from the ninth to briefly take the lead.

However, back to back bogeys at the 12th and 13th proved costly and while he birdied the last, playing partner Smith holed a gusty three-footer for a matching birdie and an emotional one-stroke victory.

“This is undoubtedly the greatest moment of my career, but it was so tough out there,” Smith said. “I am absolutely drained, but it was so worth it."

When Cronje failed to birdie the final hole, Smith knew he need a birdie four at the last to win.

“I wasn’t nervous on the tee, because the tee shot sets up perfectly for me and I executed the approach perfectly,” Smith explained. “I had about four meters to the pin, so I lagged it to about three foot. That’s when the nerves hit me.

“I promise you, I was shaking from head to toe. I was so relieved when the putt dropped that I didn’t even realise at first that I’d won the SA Stroke Play. What a feeling when it hit home!”

South African Amateur Strokeplay Championship, Benoni GC (Par 72)


1 -14 Jason Smith Irene Country Club 71 66 68 69 274

T2 -13 Stephan Cronje Nigel Golf Club 69 67 69 70 275

T2 -13 Bradley Neil Blairgowrie 70 66 67 72 275

T2 -13 Dermot McElroy Ballymena 69 65 70 71 275

5 -12 Romain Langasque Bordeaux 71 69 69 67 276

T6 -11 Zander Lombard Woodhill Country Club 70 70 70 67 277

T6- 11 Toby Tree Golf at Goodwood 70 73 69 65 277

T8 -10 Christiaan Bezuidenhout Nigel Golf Club 64 74 69 71 278

T8 -10 Kyle McClatchie Serengeti Golf And Wildlife Estate 68 72 68 70 278

T8 -10 Edgar Catherine Golf d'Aix en Province71 70 67 70 278

--- Other Irish ---

T11 -9 Gary Hurley West Waterfold 69 70 72 68 279

T16 -8 Chris Selfridge Moyola Park 66 74 72 68 280

T19 -7 Jack Hume Naas GC 73 70 69 69 281

T27 -4 Geoff Lenehan 71 70 70 73 284

T44 Ev Reeve Whitson Mourne 73 73 72 70 288

T58 +4 Robbie Cannon Balbriggan GC 71 75 74 72 292