South Africans prove too good

S. SABANAYAKAN

FOR the two-man South African team of Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, the experience was immense and the bounty was rich. The two teenagers, repeated their predecessors' performance last year with a highly commendable show as they won the 101st amateur golf championship of India match play and the two-day international team match stroke-play competition at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club course over a period of eight days.

Charl Schwartzel (left) and Louis Oosthuizen, winners of the international team match stroke-play. Schwartzel also clinched the Indian amateur title in the tournament which followed the team event.-S. PATRONOBISH

The international stroke-play that preceded the all-India meet saw the South Africans picking themselves up from the fourth position on day one to take the crown on the second day beating teams from Sri Lanka, Ireland and India rather comfortably.

Schwartzel, No. 2 in the South African ranking, below top-ranked Oosthuizen, showed fine form throughout the eight days to fashion not only his country's fortune but also ended with the prestigious title of the Indian amateur champion.

Schwartzel, the 18-year-old from Johannesburg, is a full time amateur in his country. Both he and Oosthuizen are well supported by the South African golf union, which takes them all over the world to play in different tournaments and prepare them well before they plunge into the world of professional golf.

A year older and half a foot shorter than his compatriot, Oosthuizen did not exactly have a great outing at the RCGC but nevertheless was very much a part of the winning team. Even in Mumbai last season, a South African team had won both the titles. Lying fourth on the first day at 149, the two brought in scores of two under 70 and par 72 respectively for a cumulative score of 291.

The talking point of the entire tournament, sponsored by Eveready, was Schwartzel's flawless display in the 36-hole final against India's Manav Das. The Ambala-based Indian did not know what hit him after the two birdied the first. The South African nosed ahead with a birdie on the second and the Indian replied with another birdie on the third.

Schwartzel then came up with a series of birdies on the fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th holes. This shattered Das and his game cracked under pressure. Bogeys followed from the Indian on the eighth, 10th, 11th, 14th, 16th and 18th to give the South African No. 2 a huge lead of 10 up after the first round.

Schwartzel began with a birdie on the 19th as Das reduced the lead at the 20th with a par 3. A bogey on the 21st followed by the 22nd hole meant Das appeared to have got back his touch. But Schwartzel won the next two holes forcing Das to concede the match at the 27th hole. Thus Schwartzel won by a margin of 11 & 9.

The twin tournaments began well for the host as India 'B', consisting of Gagan Verma and Manav Das, took a four-stroke lead with a total of 143 at the end of the first day of the two-day International Team Match. Verma played a round of two under par 70 while Das brought in one over par 73.

Sri Lanka 'A', comprising Anura Rohanna and Lalithkumara, was second with 147 of which Rohanna's was three under par 69 and Lalithkumara's six over 78. Jaideep Patwardhan and Simarjeet Singh of India 'C' were placed third with a score of 148. Schwartzel and Oosthuizen of South Africa were a stroke behind. India 'A's Keshav Mishra and Gurbaaz Mann returned 151 and Ireland, comprising Tim Rice and Michael McDermott, totalled 157. Sri Lanka 'B's R. Anarapathama and Jehan Desaran came up with 172.

The second day saw the leader-board changing dramatically with the South Africans jumping to first place with a cumulative score of 291 to win the tournament. Sri Lanka 'A' edged out India 'B' by a stroke to take the second position with a score of 295. The Indian duo finished with 296. India 'A', with Keshav Mishra and Gurbaaz Mann, scored 299 to finish fourth. India 'C', comprising Jaideep Patwardhan and Simarjeet Singh, was fifth with 301. Tim Rice and Michael McDermott of Ireland ended sixth with 314 and Sri Lanka 'B' finished last with 326.

When Das and Schwartzel made it to the title round at the expense of Jasjeet Singh of Noida and Saurav Bahuguna of Delhi respectively in the match play, it was widely said that the summit clash was evenly placed. Das had problems against Singh in the semifinals, but he retained his cool despite being three down on the 12th. Singh lost the next two and Das birdied the 16th to level the scores. The play-off was forced as both bogeyed the 18th. Das sunk a 10-foot putt to take the match to the 20th. Both hit their drives onto the green at this hole. Amid tense moments, Singh two putted from 15 feet while Das hit a 10-foot shot to birdie and won.

Bahuguna and Schwartzel scored a birdie each on the first nine, parred the other holes and were all square at the turn. Bahuguna bogeyed the par 4, 11th hole to be one down. He also bogeyed the 14th to be two down. Schwartzel bogeyed the 15th to reduce the lead to one up. Bahuguna missed a short putt on the 16th and lost the hole. Both parred the 17th and the South African emerged the winner 2 & 1.

In the quarterfinals, Das beat compatriot Girish Virk 5 & 4 at the 15th hole. Singh had a shaky start losing the first hole but recovered subsequently to beat Ireland's Mike McDermott at the 11th hole 7 & 6. Bahuguna, after a confident start, went five up against Rakesh Kumar of Indian Air Force. Kumar, however, reduced the former's lead to just one up. Both parred the 18th as Bahuguna won one up. Schwartzel took an early lead against Tim Rice of Ireland. The South African, leading five up, continued with his form to win at the 15th hole 5 & 4.

Das registered a resounding victory over Lalithkumara of Sri Lanka by a margin of 5 & 4. Singh got the better of Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa on the 20th hole in the quarterfinals. Oosthuizen missed a birdie on the 19th hole to continue the match to the 20th in which he missed a short putt. Gurbaaz Mann, who clinched the third round match at the 23rd hole against Nawab Singh, put up a spirited fight but was overwhelmed on the 19th hole by Rakesh Kumar.

The most stunning upset of the preliminary round matches was the defeat of top seed and last year's runner-up Anura Rohanna of Sri Lanka. Varun Sahay of Kolkata shocked his fancied opponent on the 18th hole.

The championship, last played at the RCGC in 1996, had 64 participants with nine foreign entries in the individual match play.

B. M. Khaitan, the patron of the RCGC, gave away the trophies.