BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
NEIGHBOURS South Africa look set to maintain their stranglehold on the on the FBC Zimbabwe Open trophy after a difficult day in the office for local golfers during the third round of the R2 million event at Royal Harare Golf Club yesterday.
Overnight leader Luca Filippi leads the South African charge for the coveted title despite surrendering a five-stroke advantage after carding a two-over-par 74 in the penultimate round.
The 23 year-old former to amateur, however, still holds a one-shot lead in the Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned on nine-under-par 207, just ahead of his compatriot Wynand Dingle who rose six places on the leaderboard to solo second after carding a four-under-par 68.
Seasoned South African professionals Louis de Jager and Jaco Ahlers are within striking distance, just three shots off the lead on six-under-par 210 while Zambian professional golfer Madalitso Muthiya is the only none South Africa inside the top five five-under.
Most golfers struggled with their game in the windy conditions in Harare on the third trip of the competition.
Muthiya is tied with the first round leader Louis Albertse, who carded a level par round of 72, which could have been better as he came agonisingly close to making an eagle on the 18th after hitting the flag with his second shot.
Muthiya appears to be the only golfer in a better position to end the dominance by South African golfers, who have won every edition of the Zimbabwe Open since its return in 2010.
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The last Zimbabwean to walk away with the coveted trophy was Mark McNulty in 2000, while Mutare-born Dean Burmester, who won the 2015 title, competes under the South African flag.
Chapman Golf Club professional Nyasha Muyambo, who is probably one of the most underrated players on the local circuit is the joint highest placed local golfer in a tie for 17th on one-over-par 217.
He is tied with compatriot Ryan Cairns, who had a difficult round of 76, while Jack Allard is three shots back after carding a solid two-under-par 70 for the 54 hole total of three-over-par 219.
Fifteen year-old junior golf sensation Keegan Shutt looks set to walk away with the amateur trophy and the green jacket awarded to the leading amateur in the field after carding a 76 for a 54-hole total of six-over-par-222.