Zim duo primed for World Cup of Golf
November 18, 2018
By DANIEL NHAKANISO, www.thestandard.co.zw
FRIENDS and golfing partners since they were teenagers, Scott Vincent and Benjamin Follet-Smith have long dreamed of the opportunity to represent their country at a big stage such as the World Cup together.
Now they will finally get that chance at the 2018 ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf at The Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia, from Thursday to Sunday.
As the highest-ranked Zimbabwean golfer on the Official World Golf Rankings, it was Vincent’s right to pick the partner of his choice for the global showpiece.
And it didn’t take him too long to decide on Follet-Smith.
“It was an obvious choice, we have played a good amount of golf together and I think this will help us compete well together. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play and represent my country as a professional at the World Cup in Australia, it’s a great opportunity to showcase on a world stage like that,” Vincent told The Sports Hub in an exclusive interview following his secondplace finish at the Shinhan Donghae Open in South Korea recently.
Two years separate them in age — Vincent being the senior at 26 — but the former St John’s College students have known each other since childhood having played a lot of junior and amateur tournaments for the country around the world together before taking up golf scholarships in the USA.
Since graduating from Virginia Tech, Vincent has established himself as one of the top players on the Asian Tour, while Follet — a Mississippi State University graduate — is still trying to follow the same path after joining the professional ranks last year.
Follet-Smith told The Sports Hub in an interview on Friday that he is relishing the opportunity to compete alongside his friend on the big stage and learning from the experience he has gained.
“Teaming up with Zimbabwe’s best is going to great fun as well as a week to learn from him and his ways on tour,” Follet-Smith said.
He recalls their early encounters with an obvious nostalgic sentiment, fondly reminiscing about their days learning the game among the junior and amateur rank and their desire to join the pantheon of golf’s elite.
“We have always wanted to compete together on tour, we played on the same team at St John’s College and throughout Zimbabwe golf from the juniors, so now we are just at the next step in our careers,” he said.
“We practise every day for opportunities like this and so Scott’s recent great golf has given me this awesome opportunity to play alongside him and play for Zimbabwe. It makes all the practice and hard work worth it,” he said.
Besides being an opportunity for the two friends to compete together at the highest level, it also going to be a family affair as both players will have close family members as their caddies.
Just like what he has done all season, Vincent will have his American wife Kelsey on his bag, while Follet-Smith will have his dad Rob, who introduced him to the game when he was five, as his caddie for the week.
“I definitely think our friendship and his experience will help the team as well as my dad and his wife Kelsey as the caddies. The team is all set and it should be a great week. We can’t wait to make Zimbabwe proud,” Follet-Smith said.
Veteran Zimbabwean golf development coach Roger Baylis, who played a key role in the development of both players, said the contrasts between the two players’ approach would serve them well in Australia.
“I believe this is the best thing to happen to Zimbabwe golf recently and everyone is really excited to see Scott and Ben competing against some of the best golfers in the world at the World Cup,” he said.
“I think they’re different golfers in their own right and that will actually be a good thing because they will complement each other well. Scott is more diligent and conservative whereas Ben is more flamboyant and very attacking and I think they will work well together,” Baylis said.
Vincent will head to the 2018 ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf on the back of yet another impressive season on the Asian Tour in which he yet again stood out due to his consistency.
Although he is still waiting for his breakthrough win, Vincent currently sits in fifth place on the Asian Tour’s money list after earning $420 886 while also managing three runner-up finishes.
His consistent performances have seen him make tremendous progress on the world rankings after rising from 319th towards the end of last year to a careerhigh position 141 and ninth in Africa.
In Follet-Smith he has a playing partner who is in equally good form after the former Wingate Golf Club junior claimed his maiden win on the Big Easy Tour in just his second start on South Africa’s main developmental golf tour.
Follet-Smith, who has also won several tournaments locally, is the next highest-ranked Zimbabwean on the world rankings at position 920.
The duo will become the first Zimbabwean golfers to feature at the ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf since US-based Brendon de Jonge’s 12th place finish at the 2012 event.
Zimbabwe has a very rich history in the World Cup, finishing as runners-up in the 1993 and 1994 editions of the tournament held in Puerto Rico and the USA respectively.
Then Zimbabwe was represented by the legendary trio of former world number one Nick Price, Tony Johnstone and Mark McNulty.
The 59th staging of the event will see the 56-player field vie for the largest prize-money purse in Australian golf, with US$7 million on offer.
The 72-hole strokeplay team format will feature fourball play in the first and third rounds and foursomes in the second and final rounds.
In 2016, Danes Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen shot a final-round 66 in foursomes at Kingston Heath to win Denmark’s first World Cup of Golf title by four strokes over the United States, China and France.
Denmark currently holds the men’s amateur and professional world titles following their victory in the Eisenhower Trophy at Carton House in September.