Pretoria amateur Brandon Stone ended a remarkable year by winning the Freddie Tait trophy for finishing as the leading amateur in the South African Open at the Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate on Sunday.
Stone posted a final round of 73 to finish the week on three under par. Jared Harvey, the only other amateur to make the halfway cut, finished at two over par with a final round of 77.
“This has capped a fantastic year for me,” said 18-year-old Stone. “I’ve won five times this year and played internationally. My grandfather and my parents walked with me today. The support I’ve had this week has been unbelievable.”
Stone only finished writing his matric exams the day before the first round, leaving him little time to prepare for the South African Open.
“I knew it was going to be difficult. I wrote my last Afrikaans exam on Wednesday morning and went straight to Serengeti in the afternoon to practice. And I just made up my mind to go out there and enjoy it this week.”
A tricky final round played in a stiff breeze and with the Serengeti greens firming up also tested his resolve.
“It was unbelievable out there today. The greens were getting so firm with this wind. I knew today was going to be tough. But you don’t win titles like this easy. I just took a couple of breaths and said to myself, ‘You’ve got to get through this because you can’t just give it to Jared. You’ve got to fight for it’. But my 73 felt like a 65.”
Stone will be focusing on his golf for the next nine months before he takes up a golf scholarship at the University of Texas.
“I wanted to get into that American system. You see players like Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler – all of them came through that. It put them at that extra level. I want that level of competitiveness where you are pushed to improve.”
Stone is also in no hurry to turn professional just yet.
“It depends on how it goes in the States. It depends on how I develop and improve while at College.”
Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate will host the South African Open Championship in 2011 and 2012. The Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at Serengeti is the first 27-hole golf course in Gauteng and was recently named “Best New Golf Course” by Golf Digest.
The 18-hole course called Masai Mara, which means “wide open plains” in the language of the Masai, has a rugged grassland and dune-scape look. One of the unique features on the course is the par-five eighth hole with its island green. The nine-hole course called Whistling Thorn has a more classic feel.
The courses were constructed in accordance with USGA specifications, with cool season grass that provides green vistas all year round. Designed as a strategic and technical masterpiece that will test today’s best players, the sunken design of the course with its wide corridors is ideal for tournament purposes and provides optimal spectator value on almost every hole.