Walker Cup star Gavin Moynihan will be the highest ranked player in the field when he's joined by eight Irish team mates in the Eastern Province Border Stroke Play Championship at Port Elizabeth Golf Club in South Africa on Saturday.
The man from The Island, ranked 34th in the world and the winner of last year's Scottish Amateur Open Strokeplay, is joined for a two-week trip by Richard Bridges (Stackstown), Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Robin Dawson (Faithlegg), John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead), Jack Hume (Naas), Gary Hurley (West Waterford), Dermot McElroy (Ballymena) and Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass).
The Irish squad will then play in the South African Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Port Elizabeth Golf Club from 3–6 February.
Interestingly for a nation that has produced so many top class professionals, there is just one South African inside the Top 100 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings — No 46 Christiaan Bezuidenhout — compared to five for Ireland (Walker Cup panel members Moynihan, Paul Dunne, Hume, Hurley and Sharvin).
Like Ireland, South Africa lose many players to the professional ranks each year and appears to suffer the same attrition rate as Ireland, if the comments the Sunshine Tour's Chief Executive Selwyn Nathan are anything to go by.
Speaking at the announcement that the South African Golf Association (SAGA), in association with the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB), will launch a South African National Golf Squad programme following a Rand 10-million (€750,000) sponsorship injection from business leader Johann Rupert, Mr Nathan said: “This is a very positive step for the development of South Africa’s emerging talent.
"Each year we welcome the top amateurs into the professional circuit, but we watch with concern how they struggle to adjust to the paid ranks.
“The elements contained in the South African National Golf Squad programme will deliver more developed, mature and prepared golfers to the Sunshine Tour.
“It is fantastic to see the amateurs bodies working together to sustain our talent and we are incredibly excited to see this programme get off the ground.”
South Africa's are currently taking on France in a Test Match at St Francis Links and lead 7-2 going into the final day.