New diet fuels Lombard to British Am final vs. Neil

How do you get to the final of the British Amateur Championship? Stop eating chicken.

It’s worked for 19-year-old South African Zander Lombard.

The plus-5 handicapper from Pretoria faces Scotland’s Bradley Neil in the 36-hole final after defeating England’s Sean Towndrow, 1 up. Neil defeated fellow Scot Conner Syme, 2 and 1, in the other semifinal match.

Lombard is bidding to become only the second South African to win the British Amateur since an 18-year-old Bobby Cole won in 1966. He is the fourth South African to make the final since then, and the first since Trevor Immelman lost to Scotland’s Craig Watson at Royal St. George’s in 1997.

Lombard credits a diet that has seen him lose 13 percent of his body fat and nearly 40 pounds for allowing him to reach the final. The strapping South African was previously on a strict diet of chicken, salad and rice. He did not eat junk food and worked out, and yet couldn’t lose weight. Moreover, he seemed to get the flu once a month.

He’s been fine ever since he discovered eating chicken wasn’t good for him.

“It’s made a massive difference to my performance and my life,” said Lombard, who recently won the KwaZulu-Natal Amateur Championship. “I was on a strict diet but I never gained muscle or lost fat even though I worked out every day for about two years and ate properly. I had a blood test, and I was told to avoid chicken and go on a red meat diet and eat vegetables that were good for me.

“Before I’d have the flu every month and I haven’t been sick since. It’s actually nice being healthy.”

Neil has no health issues to speak of, but his game is in perfect shape. The 18-year-old is having the season of his life. He has seven top-10 finishes this year alone, including three seconds and two third-place finishes. He recently lost a playoff for the St. Andrews Links Trophy.

“I never thought I could have this good a season,” Neil said. “It’s been the best season I’ve had in my golfing career and this just sort of caps it off. All the events I’ve played in and all the work I’ve done has built up to this event, to this moment, this final. I’ve been so close this season.”

Neil immediately called his mother Amanda after confirming his place in the final. It was only then that he realized what he stands on the verge of.

“We got pretty emotional,” Neil said. “We both know what this could do. I think Zander knows the same. This is life changing. The doors it can open and the events it can get you into are just incredible.

“It’s everyone’s dream to play in the Open Championship and Masters. I never thought I’d be good enough.”

He now has belief. So much so that he’s been thinking about the rewards that go with winning the British Amateur – invites to next month’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, plus invitations to next year’s Masters and U.S. Open.

“You think about that coming into the week and every day," Neil said. "I definitely thought about it more than once today. It’s hard to put something like that to the back of your mind. You have to try to use it as motivation to win each match."

Neil is bidding to become the first Scottish winner since Stuart Wilson beat Lee Corfield at St. Andrews in 2004. He is the third Scot to reach the final in the last five years.

“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow," Neil said. "I’m not going to shy away from the occasion. I’m going to play the golf I’ve been playing the last few days. I know he’s going to want to win just as badly as me, but if he’s going to beat me it’s not going to be easy.

“I believe this is my time. My confidence is there, my game’s there. I just need to bring it on the day.”

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