Friday, January 20, 2012


Scotland’s leading male amateurs will return to South Africa on Monday (January 23) for the competitive stage of their winter performance programme to develop their games in readiness for the new domestic season.
Thanks to the support of national team sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management and South African businessman Johann Rupert, coupled with continued funding from sportscotland, the men’s squad will fly to Johannesburg on Monday for an eight-week camp.
The programme will include four major events on the South African circuit, a Test Match against the host nation and an intensive training camp with players working on short game, swing and general fitness.
The winter training programme follows the great success of the 2011 tour of South Africa, which produced a host of impressive performances and results. Michael Stewart defeated Paul Shields in the all-Scottish final of the South African amateur championship, to etch his name on the trophy alongside the likes of Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, while David Law captured the coveted Northern Amateur crown after losing out in a play-off for the South African amateur stroke-play championship.
Scotland international Shields (Kirkhill), pictured right, is among the seven-strong men’s squad returning to South Africa, along with 2011 SGU Men’s Order of Merit winner James White (Lundin), last year’s Scottish amateur championship runner-up Daniel Kay (Dunbar) and another international, Brian Soutar (Leven GS). Pollok’s Conor O’Neil, former British boys runner-up Fraser McKenna (Balmore) and Scott Crichton (Aberdour) complete the travelling player party.
US university-based duo Grant Forrest and Scott Gibson are unable to make the trip while Graeme Robertson – edged out by White for the Order of Merit title last year – has study commitments at the University of Stirling and also misses out.
The players begin their competitive action at the Gauteng North Open on January 28, before the South African Stroke Play, at Glendower Golf Club, begins on February 7.
The Test Match at Leopard’s Creek Country Club and work with the South African Golf Development Board will follow. The squad will then fly to Cape Town and start preparations for the South African Amateur at Mowbray Golf Club, being held from February 26 to March 2.
The Northern Amateur Open is the final event being contested from March 11-16 before the return flight home to Scotland on March 17.
Lundin’s White, who profited from the winter programme last year, said: “I’m really looking forward to going back to South Africa. It’s an intensive, hard-working camp, but I felt the work I did there last year really paid off when I came home. I played very well straight away and went on to win twice last season on my way to winning the Order of Merit.
“The weather at home is not conducive to good practice so getting competitive golf under our belts at this time of year in the South African climate will be great. I know the tournaments we are playing in again and I know some of the courses. I know what to expect really, so I’m looking forward to performing.
”It would be nice to follow in the footsteps of Michael and David, who played some great golf out there last year. It fills us all with confidence for this year knowing that we can go out there and compete. All the players are hugely grateful to all the organisations involved, particularly Mr Rupert, in giving us this opportunity. Hopefully we can repay them with some big wins this season."
National coach Ian Rae, pictured right, who will lead the coaching programme to South Africa along with support from staff from the Scottish Institute of Sport, expects the players to reap further reward in the weeks ahead.
Rae said: “This is much more a performance-based trip than a training trip. We’re going to play the two main amateur events and a warm-up tournament, the Gauteng North Open, which is a strong event. The last event, the Northern Amateur Open is a great competition as well, with quite a few of the top players travelling from France and Italy for these events too.
“More success would be nice, absolutely, but everybody in the squad is in a slightly different position. You’ve got players much more experienced, others less so, so everybody will have a different goal for the trip – whether it be trying to win an event or developing their games. They are all capable that’s for sure, but they all have different goals.”

South Africa Competition Calendar
January 28-29: Gauteng North Open
February 7-10: South Africa stroke-play championship
February 14-15: South Africa v Scotland Test Match
February 26-March 2: South African amateur championship
March 11-16: Northern Amateur Open

Men’s Elite Squad for South Africa
Scott Crichton (Aberdour)
Daniel Kay (Dunbar)
Fraser McKenna (Balmore)
Conor O’Neil (Pollok)
Paul Shields (Kirkhill)
Brian Soutar (Leven GS)
James White (Lundin)



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