Pretoria’s Zander Lombard and Jason Smith and Gerlou Roux from Bellville are primed to challenge in the prestigious Eisenhower Trophy at the biennial World Amateur Team Championship in Japan this week.
On Saturday, Australia beat out 50 countries in the women’s competition at the Karuizawa 72 East Golf Club to lift the Espirito Santo Trophy. Now it’s the men’s turn and this year’s edition ties the third largest field in the history of the Eisenhower trophy with entries from 69 countries.
Lombard, Smith and Roux arrived in Karuizawa on the weekend, accompanied by South African Golf Association vice-president Gerhard Conradie and national coach, Llewellyn van Leeuwen.
The South Africans partnered with Canada at the Iriyama Course in Monday’s first official practice round and the teams will pair up again in the second practice round at the Oshitate course on Tuesday.
Van Leeuwen said the team enjoyed their first look at the host venue.
“We were all pretty wiped out from the long trip to Japan and we really struggled with jetlag on Sunday,” the TuksGolf Club and Academy head coach and technical director said.
“We had a long run this morning to get the juices flowing.
“The guys are feeling quite comfortable now and the practice round went very well. All three guys are hitting the ball fine and they all seem to read the greens well, too.
“Our first impression is that the Iriyama course it is a low scoring course, but we have heard that the Oshitate course is the easier layout and we are looking forward to playing it tomorrow.”
South Africa has never lifted the Eisenhower Trophy, but Ettienne Groenewald, Duncan Lindsay Smith, Wayne Player and David Suddards came close with a runner-up finish in 1980 at Pinehurst in North Carolina.
British Amateur finalist Lombard played in the 2012 Eisenhower Trophy, while the experienced Roux and reigning SA Stroke Play champion Smith are making their debut in Japan.
The country’s number two ranked player believes the South African team is strong enough to win.
“Going into this championship, you know it will be tough because you have the world’s top amateurs in one place with the same goal – to win the Eisenhower Trophy,” Lombard said.
“We have a strong team with three very diverse players, which I believe will be to our advantage. If we can get off to a solid start, we can definitely challenge this year.”
The line-up also includes defending champions United States and three-time champions Australia.
The Yanks – the only country to win three consecutive titles (2000, 20002 and 2004) in the history of the event – will be vying for back-to-back WATC titles.
Australia’s Lucas Herbert, recent Porter Cup champion Geoff Drakeford and Ryan Ruffles hope to follow their female counterparts into the winner’s circle.