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Friday, 19 March 2010

A second successive 68 gave South African Omar Sandys a two stroke lead over England’s Lee Slattery at the halfway stage of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

At eight under par 36, he leads Slattery, who produced the best round of the day with a flawless 65, by two strokes with six players including the World Number Five and tournament favourite, Ernie Els, gathered in a share of third place on five under par 139.

Sandys dropped only two shots in the first 36 holes, playing with remarkable composure on such a big stage, particularly as the nerves started to kick in when he realised he was leading.

“I started getting really nervous on the back nine,” admitted Sandys, who responded with three birdies in four holes from the 12th and dropped his only shot of the day at the 16th. But on the par-five 18th he produced a magnificent six iron to 15 feet of the hole for his second shot and two-putted for a birdie.

Sandys is a true journeyman professional, preferring to travel around South Africa to tournaments in his car rather than fly.

“I put over 480 000 kilometres on my last car before I sold it,” says Sandys. “In fact, last night I was under my car trying to fix a broken clutch. Fortunately I managed to do so.”

Sandys was born in the town of Welkom in the Free State and first went to the golf course with his father at the age of six. He won one tournament – the Kroonstad Open – in his final year as an amateur and then turned professional.

“My life changed when I turned professional, my girlfriend, who is now my wife, used to help me scrape together money to afford to travel to tournaments,” said Sandys, who has an unshakeable faith in the goodness of the world.

“I love everyone on earth and I’m always amazed by the support I get. At the end of the day, it’s all about guts and believing in yourself. I’ve always said, I plan and God drives. So I’m definitely looking forward to the weekend. I just need to stay in the present and focus on it shot by shot. If I can shoot eight under for the next two rounds, it will be great.”

Slattery’s rollercoaster year took a distinctly upward turn in South Africa when the 29 year old Englishman carded an impressive 65 at the Mpumalanga venue.

Six weeks ago, Slattery lost his European Tour card by one place and the paltry sum of €77 but returned to Spain and San Roque for The European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage three weeks later took the third card on offer from the six round examination to regain his playing privileges for the 2008 season.

In his first start of the 2008 season, Slattery produced a superb display in the second round at Leopard Creek, rattling in seven birdies without dropping a shot.

"It's the best I've hit the ball tee-to-green for a long time, I was swinging nicely and it just felt effortless," Slattery said. "I also holed a few long putts, including one from off the green, but, to be honest, I still left a few chances out there.

"But it's my seventh time at Leopard Creek, so I know the course very well. It's a great course, it offers you risk and reward.

"Today was a little calmer so you were able to go for the pins a bit, and the greens are fantastic, the perfect pace," Slattery said.

Els had an up and down day of his own in the second round before he finally signed for a 69 and a five under par total of 139. Four birdies in his first six holes from the tenth got the three time Major winner off to a flying start but that was halted slightly by back-to-back bogeys at the 17th and 18th. Three further birdies on his inward half got him to six under par for the tournament but he dropped a shot at his final hole, the 475 yard par four ninth.

Alongside Els was another South African, Titch Moore, the English pair of John Bickerton and Richard Bland, Welshman Sion Bebb and Scotland’s Craig Lee.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1BICKERTON, JohnENG18-13
T2ELS, ErnieRSA18-12
T2SLATTERY, LeeENG18-12
4LUITEN, JoostNED18-11
5McGOWAN, RossENG18-9
T6DIXON, DavidENG18-8
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