Golf

Golf’s top amateurs do battle in Durbanville

2017-03-01 14:29
Garrick Higgo (Supplied)

Cape Town - Revenge will be on the cards for the international entrants when amateurs from 18 countries around the globe converge for the 2017 Curro South African Juniors International (SAJI) at Durbanville Golf Club from March 7-9.

Jakub Hrinda from Slovakia - the Boys Division runner-up in 2016 - will relish another show-down with local defending champion, Garrick Higgo from De Zalze Golf Club. 

The Stellenbosch junior fended off a final round charge from Hrinda to claim a three-stroke victory that sparked a purple patch for the 17-year-old and saw him rocket to second in the South African Golf Association (SAGA) Junior Rankings.

Higgo and Luca Filippi from Western Province, who ranks third, are currently South Africa’s top candidates for the International Team to compete in the inaugural Junior Presidents Cup in September and they will be tough to beat on home soil.

But the GolfRSA National Squad duo will have to deal with a strong local challenge led by Ekurhuleni’s Jayden Schaper, reigning Nomads SA Boys Under-17 champion Wilco Nienaber from Free State and Curro Aurora learner Cole Stevens from Parkview Golf Club in Gauteng.

Schaper, Nienaber and Stevens all rank inside the top 10 on the SAGA Under-17 following outstanding seasons in 2016. 

Schaper, ranked second, enjoyed a trio of victories, including the Nomads SA Boys U-15 Championship and the Tshwane Junior Open.

Nienaber moved to third to third following a victory at Benoni Country Club earlier this year and Stevens, who produced an outstanding top five finish in the World Junior Golf Championship in Jakarta last June, ranks seventh in the standings.

Woo-Ju Son from Curro Aurora made her debut in the SAJI at the tender age of 11 and remains the youngest player to participate in the Global Junior Golf Tour event.

She will start her sixth appearance as the defending champion in the Girls Division and talented Country Club Johannesburg player is already showing the form that carried her to the top of the Womens Golf South Africa (WGSA) Junior Rankings in 2016. Although she slipped to second, Son bolstered her position with back-to-back victories in the first two weeks of the 2017 season. She captured the Boland Junior Championship and repeated her 2016 winning performance at Durbanville Country Club to lift the Nomads WP Junior Championship title again in January.

However, the Gauteng junior can brace herself for a stiff opposition this year.

Crystal Beukes from Boland, who placed third in last year’s event, leads the local challenge alongside current number one senior Kajal Mistry from Gauteng, who also leads the junior rankings by a whisker from Son.

Also back for another stab at success is 2014 champion Kayleigh Telfer from Gauteng. The country’s number two ranked player had to skip last year’s event in favour of her matric year but, having banked the Eastern Province double earlier this month, Telfer is eager to add another SAJI title to her tally before she leaves for the United States to take up a golf scholarship at Auburn University.

This marks the seventh successive year that South Africa hosts the tournament and the fourth year that the event is sponsored by Curro Holdings.

The 148-strong field will feature 79 of South Africa’s most talented juniors, while 69 players representing 17 countries make up the balance of the field. The foreign entries include Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Namibia, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, Slovakia, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, as well as Australia, who makes a welcome return after an absence of three years with three participants in the Boys Division and two players in the Girls Division.

Over the first two rounds of the event, 11 counties will also compete in the annual International Teams Competition.

“There is no other tournament like this in Southern Africa,” said tournament director Erica Lefson.

“The Curro SAJI is a prestigious, fully integrated international amateur tournament on the local calendar and the biggest junior international tournament in South Africa.

“The championship is fully endorsed by South Africa’s amateur golf’s governing bodies GolfRSA, the SAGA and WGSA and also recognised by golf federations around the world. Not only does the Curro SAJI carry World Junior Rankings and the Royal & Ancient World Amateur Rankings, but it also offers WGSA and SAGA junior ranking points. These rankings form the foundation of a fair and accurate world ranking system that opens doors to scholarships and facilitate training at world-class academies.”

Operations Director of Curro Golf Lisa Mackenzie said the Curro SAJI perfectly fits with Curro Golf’s vision to create a standardised golfing pathway for learners across the country.

“This event not only offers the juniors the chance to go against each other, but the Curro South African Juniors International brings all the players together creating future friendships and relationships,” Mackenzie said. 

“At Curro Golf we aim to create an opportunity for these young players to become role models for future golfers and to encourage other students to take up the game and participate in a competitive environment. We are committed to develop golfers from the SA Golf Development Board (SAGDB) through scholarships.

“In 2016, Franklin Manchest was the highest ranked SADGB player in the event and he was given an opportunity to take part in the German Juniors, where he excelled and finished second in his age group. Up-and-coming talent grade eight scholar Carl Mwale from Curro Aurora finished fifth in the eighth Albatross International Golf Championship India last year. With players like Franklin and Carl, we foresee great champions in the making and the Curro SAJI is the perfect platform for them to gain experience and exposure to top international talent.”

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