9am Round-Up: Craig Ross storms into SA Amateur semi-finals

Craig Ross. Picture: Kenny Smith
Craig Ross. Picture: Kenny Smith
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Kirkhill’s Craig Ross stormed into the semi-finals of the Sanlam South African Amateur Championship at George Golf Club this morning.

Bidding to become the fourth Scot to lift the title in the last six years, the 23-year-old beat Durban Country Club’s Matt Saulez 5&3 in their fourth-round clash.

Ross, who’d qualified for the match-play phase in second place, went ahead when his opponent ran up a 6 at the par-5 second then doubled his advantage when a par proved good enough at the fourth.

The Scot lost the fifth after dropping his first shot of the day but was two up again thanks to a birdie at the eighth.

Saulez birdied the ninth but was soon fighting a losing battle as Ross won the 10th and 11th to go three up.

A brilliant eagle-3 at the 14th extended that lead to four holes and he closed out the match by then winning the 15th with a par.

Ross is chasing his biggest victory since he outshone the professionals to win on the PGA EuroPro Tour at Mar Hall in 2014.

“I really like the course as it suits my game and keep getting more and more comfortable on it,” he admitted.

Troon Welbeck’s Michael Stewart sparked Scotland’s notable run of success in the South African Amateur when he lifted the title in 2011.

He was succeeded as champion by Leven Golfing Society’s Brian Soutar before Daniel Young (Craigie Hill) came out on top 12 months ago.

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Minjee Lee and Candie Kung fired first-round five-under-par 67s to top the leaderboard at the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore.

The pair sit one shot clear of four players, including defending champion Inbee Park, along with Mika Miyazato, Lee-Anne Pace and Suzann Pettersen.

On a day when players had to battle a bit of rain and wind, Lee and Kung both birdied the 18th to set the pace.

World No 1 Lydia Ko is sitting in a tie for 27th after she carded a one-under 71, the same as English teenager Charley Hull.

Ko had been one-over with three to play before the Kiwi picked up birdies at the 16th and 18th.

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An 11-year-old boy stunned Tiger Woods by holing the inaugural tee shot at a new golf course co-designed by the 14-time major winner.

Taylor Crozier achieved the feat on an 81-yard par-3 at The Playgrounds at Bluejack National in Montgomery, Texas.

The fabulous achievement earned him a hug from Woods as well as a mention on Twitter from the former world No 1.

“First hole at The Playgrounds and this happened,” Woods tweeted, along with a video of the shot.

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Leven Links, home of the world’s oldest amateur tournament, has appointed a professional for the first time in its 170-year history in a bid to “put the club back on the golfing map”.

The bold move has realised a “lifelong dream” for the man who has taken up the post as Eric Walker cut his golfing teeth on the Fife course after becoming a junior member there at the age of seven.

“The appointment came about due to the two club captains and two forward-thinking guys, Ninian Heron and Alan Lee, pushing this to the members and showing them that this is the way forward for the Links,” said Walker.

“Leven is one of the finest links course in the country and is steeped in history, being the first course in the world to have 18 individual tees and greens as back in the 1800s courses were mainly 12 holes and had double greens.

“It’s also host to the world’s oldest amateur event, the Standard Life Gold Medal, and staged local Final Qualifying for The Open at St Andrews six times between 1978 and 2005.”

Walker was an assistant to Paul Wytrazek at Burntisland for 16 years and, more recently, had a spell head professional at Thornton. “I was a junior member here at seven-years-old and learnt my game here on the Links, so when I was given the opportunity to become its first and new professional, I grabbed it with both hands,” he added.

“Leven hasn’t been achieving its potential for years and my role as the head professional and the links main ambassador is to promote and market this great course.

Already I have increased member and visitor numbers and there’s a feelgood factor here now as we put Leven Links back on the golfing map.”

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Back to business after enjoying a belated party at home in Fife to celebrate his Australian Amateur Championship win, Connor Syme made the best start among the Scots in the qualifying phase of the Spanish equivalent.

A two-under-par 70 at Royal Seville Golf Club left the Drumoig Golf Centre player sitting joint-fifth, four shots behind Welsh pacesetter Owen Edwards, after the first of two stroke-play rounds.

On a day when only 18 players broke par, Scottish Amateur champion Bob MacIntyre (Glencruitten) was the next best among the tartan contingent on 73, a shot better than Liam Johnston (Dumfries & County).

After a 76, Bearsden’s Ewen Ferguson is just outside the qualifying zone, as are Jack McDonald (Barassie) and Grant Forrest (Craigielaw) after matching 77s.

Hannah McCook (Grantown-on-Spey) is the top Scot in the women’s event at El Scorpion in Valencia, lying joint-36th after a five-over-par 76.

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Three players - Neil Henderson (Renaissance Club), Ross Munro (Duddingston) and Duncan Stewart (Turnhouse) - shared the scratch spoils in an Edinburgh & East of Scotland Alliance event at Falkirk Tryst.

Henderson also came close to claiming the overall prize, The Alliance Trophy, but was pipped by Harburn five-handicapper Robin Cockburn on a countback.