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Father’s presence gives Stone more steel at SA Open

Brandon Stone played awfully good golf in the last tournament he played. He won the Alfred Dunhill Championship by seven strokes, and he’s back in the saddle for this week’s BMW SA Open hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni at Glendower Golf Club.

His father Kevin will be an unobtrusive figure following Stone as he sets out on Thursday to try to become the first man since Trevor Immelman to win the tournament in successive years, and Stone’s fine form is in no small measure due to his father’s quiet presence.

‘You can see a direct correlation when he’s with me and how I play,’ said 2016 Rio Olympian Stone. ‘A lot more consistent golf, it’s less sporadic and it’s professional. I think that’s the element he brings to my game. I just get a lot more focused when he’s there.’

And, although the world No2 Rory McIlroy is in the field, and is obviously the man to beat, a Stone this focused is a serious contender in any company.

That showed in the 11-under-par 61 he shot in a practice round in the company of two top amateurs on Monday. ‘I think yesterday’s round got a bit of the rust of December off,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t really planning on firing on all cylinders. I wasn’t quite sure; the game felt good but you never really know after December break how it’s going to pan out. A 61 doesn’t hurt the confidence.’

Focus and confidence are a potent combination, and Stone knows who to thank for it. ‘My dad being a professional golfer, he obviously has that background knowledge and knows what he’s talking about so I take whatever he says and digest it and try and process it the way that I can,’ he said. ‘He has been incredible. As far as a father goes, it doesn’t get much better and as a mentor in golf, I know it doesn’t get much better.’

He will need to feel that calming influence ahead of the first round. ‘I think the most exciting thing this week is when I stand on the tee box on Thursday and they say “Please welcome the defending champion, Brandon Stone.”

‘I’m getting goose flesh right now thinking about that,’ he said.

‘That was, ironically, the first thing I said last year when I won, when I was driving home with my dad. I said ‘I get to come here for the rest of my life; I get to play every single SA Open until they won’t let me anymore’, and that is going to be a long time. So this tournament is always going to be very close to my heart.’


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