By Lali Stander
VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe – Malcolm Mitchell, Matt Saulez and new cap Clayton Mansfield are eager to launch South Africa’s title defence in the All Africa Golf Team Championship in Zimbabwe next week.
The KwaZulu-Natal trio will be targeting an eighth consecutive victory in the prestigious biennial team alongside Junior Presidents Cup standout Garrick Higgo from Boland at Elephant Hills Golf Club in Victoria Falls from 10-14 October.
South Africa won the inaugural event in 2001 and claimed subsequent success in Botswana (2003), Uganda (2005), Namibia (2007), Egypt (2011) and Swaziland (2013).
Two years ago, Sunshine Tour rookies Jason Smith, Jade Buitendag, Andre Nel and Aubrey Beckley extended the country’s dominance with an 18 stroke victory at Limuru Country Club in Kenya.
Mitchell, who left for Zimbabwe buoyed by a hat-trick of titles in the recent Ekurhuleni Open, believes the team has an excellent chance of retaining the title.
“Of course I have confidence in the Banana Boys and when you throw South Africa’s second highest ranked amateur in the mix, you have to believe your chances are good,” said Mitchell.
“Garrick contributed to the South African junior team’s winning performance in the All-Africa Junior Golf Championship at Royal Harare in April, so he won’t have a problem adjusting to the conditions at Elephant Hills. He has had a brilliant season at home and abroad and he is joining us straight off his debut in the Junior Presidents Cup.
“Clayton won the Boland Amateur and he picked up a bucket load of experienced at the Student Olympics in Taipei, plus he finished fifth in the Ekurhuleni Open a week ago. Even though it’s his first time officially representing South Africa, he is very experienced and will definitely be an asset.
“Matt and I partnered for South Africa in the Friendship Cup against India at Leopard Creek and we finished the week undefeated, which definitely boosted our confidence. Matt led the Ekurhuleni Open but I managed to overtake him for the win, so we are both going to Zimbabwe in good form.
The most esteemed teams’ event on the continent
“Matt, Clayton and I also played the last two premier Inter-Provincials for KwaZulu-Natal, so we know each other very well and that is always a plus in a team event. Personally I am really grateful that the South African Golf Association has given Matt and me this opportunity to play together before we leave for Argentina to represent South Africa in the Juan Carlos Tailhade Cup.
“The All Africa Golf Team Championship is undoubtedly one of the most esteemed teams’ event in Africa. We are very proud of South Africa’s record and we are determined to continue the legacy.”
In addition to the host nation and the defending champions, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, Reunion Island, Tunisia, Zambia, Tanzania, Mauritius, Botswana, Swaziland, Angola, Namibia and Ghana have also confirmed their participation in this year’s championship.
South African Golf Association vice-president and team manager Naadir Agherdien believes the team has the skill and experience to bring the trophy home.
“These four players are really fired up for the challenge ahead,” he said.
“They are a determined bunch and there is a very good team spirit among the lads. I really like their positive attitude. The competition will undoubtedly be stiff with a really large field this year, but I believe we have selected four very able young men to defend our title.”
The championship will be contested over four rounds of stroke play, with the top three scores per round counting toward the team total. The country with the lowest gross score at the end of the championship will be crowned champions.
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