Mandela Championship: Jamieson’s title defence

SCOTT Jamieson will pack his clubs away on Saturday night to prepare to experience fatherhood for the first time. Bowing out by making a successful defence of the Nelson Mandela Championship title would be the daddy of sign offs.

Scott Jamieson proudly shows off the trophy of the man himself after winning last year. Picture: Getty
Scott Jamieson proudly shows off the trophy of the man himself after winning last year. Picture: Getty
Scott Jamieson proudly shows off the trophy of the man himself after winning last year. Picture: Getty

It was a huge honour for the recently-turned 30-year-old that his maiden European Tour triumph was delivered in the event bearing Mandela’s name, his victory 12 months ago coming in a sudden-death play-off after the opening tournament on the 2013 schedule was reduced to 36 holes at Royal Durban by bad weather.

The fact he is now defending the title in the build-up to the former South African President’s funeral – the tournament, again being played at Durban but this time at Mount Edgecome, has been brought forward 24 hours to avoid clashing with Sunday’s day of mourning – means it will be an emotional and poignant occasion for Jamieson.

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“It will be a new experience for me being called on the tee as a defending champion and hopefully one I will relish,” admitted the Glaswegian on the day world leaders – past and present – paid their tribute to Mandela at a Memorial Service in Soweto. “All the flags are at half mast and you get a sense of the sombre mood around the place. It’s obviously changed the whole complexion and atmosphere.

“So it’s going to be a tough week, but it’s great to have a tournament carrying Nelson Mandela’s name. I feel like I’ll be playing the whole of South Africa this week but I’ll also be trying my hardest as the defending champion to do exactly the same thing and honour him. Obviously, being so close to his sad passing, it definitely adds an edge to the tournament. My win last year was the catalyst for me going forward and to make a successful defence of the title would be amazing. It would be a great honour to be the champion again.”

Jamieson followed up his win a year ago by finishing third and second in his next two events – the Alfred Dunhill Championship and Volvo Champions, both of which were also staged in South Africa. Victory this weekend would earn a place in the latter once again but it will be a polite “thanks but no thanks” to the tournament organisers from the Scot if that scenario arises.

“This is likely to be my last event until late February or even early March,” he revealed of his America wife, Natalie, nearing the end of her pregnancy. “Our first baby is due in the middle of January, so I won’t be playing in Abu Dhabi or Qatar and would play Dubai only if the baby came early. My next event is likely to be back in South Africa at the end of February or early March.”

While the prospect of wetting the baby’s head is appearing on the horizon, Jamieson is gearing up for what is likely to be another soggy week in Durban, where the ANC held a rally across the road in January as he led the Volvo Champions event before being outgunned by former Open champion Louis Oozthuizen in the final round at Durban Country Club. “I’ve just finished the pro-am and it’s absolutely lashing,” he reported. “The forecast is not great, either. Underfoot conditions are going to be similar to last year, so that might be a good omen for me.”

In his three seasons on the European Tour, Jamieson has finished in the top 60 in the Race to Dubai on each occasion. But he agrees with his coach, Alan McCloskey, that cutting down on his schedule could be the key to future success. “This is only Scott’s fourth full season on the European Tour, so he is still learning,” said Bothwell Castle-based McCloskey. “If I was to be a wee bit critical at all of him, it would be his scheduling. He was perhaps chasing too many tournaments. But he’s a wee bit beyond that now. He’s established. He was maybe in too much of a hurry by playing every week. I think it’s a matter of preparing better and not to over-stretch himself. Look at Jamie Donalson. He says he is playing less, not more, and look what he is doing. That’s one of the things Scott is learning and I think you will see his scheduling much improved next year.”

Concurring, Jamieson said: “I’m going to sit down when I get home and see where we are in terms of a schedule for next year. I agree with Alan that scheduling may not have been great. After a great start to last season maybe that’s why I shaded off in the middle of the season before a strong end to it. I have to work out a way to be better in the middle of the season, although I have improved my ranking position each of the three years on Tour.”

Also in the field for the final European Tour event in the calendar year are Alastair Forsyth, Scott Henry, Jack Doherty, Peter Whiteford, Doug McGuigan, Jamie McLeary, Duncan Stewart, Andrew McArthur and David Drysdale, the latter being the leading Scot on the 2014 money-list in 45th spot.