Ponte Vedra Beach - Third time’s the charm for
South Africa’s Jayden Schaper, who muscled his way to victory at the AJGA
Junior Players Championship in the United States on Saturday.
really feels amazing on my third go, to finally get the win,” the country’s
leading amateur said after he holed a clutch six-foot putt at the final hole to
cement a one-shot victory on six-under-par 210.
Hurricane Dorian closing in on the coast of Florida, the invitation-only junior
event at the iconic TPC Sawgrass was condensed into two days.
field teed off the first round in driving rain that swept across the Stadium
Course in the morning, but 18-year-old Schaper wasted no time in living up to
his billing. He broke into the top four with an opening three-under-par 69 and,
in the afternoon, the Ebotse golfer braved the elements to card a 70 that
earned him a share the lead with American Brett Robert on four-under.
lot of our tournaments back home, we play 36 holes on the first day and 18 on
the last, so the change in format didn’t really faze me,” he said.
“It’s one of
my most favourite courses and it was such a big goal of mine. It hasn’t really
sunk in, but I’m just over the moon to call myself a Junior Players champion.”
the same cool and composed demeanour that saw him triumph under great pressure
in the South African Stroke Play Championship earlier this year, Schaper was
the picture of calm on the final day. He got off to a birdie start at the par
four first and parred the next four holes before a birdie at the par four sixth
took him clear of the chasing pack on six-under.
“I had a
terrible warm-up session on the range and I just wasn’t striking it well at
all,” he said.
“Then I got on the first tee, striped it down the middle and
made birdie and that settled the nerves.”
got his nose in front, Schaper never relinquished the lead.
spirited charges from Bo Jin from China and Australian Karl Vilips, and
successive bogeys at the seventh and eighth holes, Schaper turned level and
rallied with two birdies on the bounce on the par-five 11th and par four 12th
to get back to six-under.
the wobble on the front nine, I kept it simple. I hit fairways and greens and I
was able to keep myself in it,” Schaper said.
South African offset a third bogey at the short 13th with his fifth gain, at
the par four 15th, and two solid pars saw him reach the final hole
with a two-shot lead.
always try to keep my head down in tournaments, focus on my own game and play
one shot at a time. I knew what the guys in my group were doing, but not much
else,” he said.
missed a short birdie putt on 16 and I was happy to walk away with a good par
on 17. I don’t care what anyone says, standing on that tee, you don’t want to
be the guy who hits it in the water. I felt comfortable coming up 18. I’ve felt
good about that tee shot all week.
what the leaderboard was doing and they told me I was two shots ahead, but Bo
Jin had a six-foot putt for birdie. I hit a good drive down the middle, and I
heard the cheers and knew I only needed par to win.
club I had in my hand was the same one I used to make a birdie two years ago to
make the International Team for the Junior Presidents Cup. Then I blocked the
shot right and it came up just short right of the green. Not a great shot and I
wasn’t too happy with it. I was calm, though, by the time I got to my ball, and
I chipped it to six feet below the hole and sunk the putt.”
became the fifth international winner in the 13 year history of the event.
thought of winning it was there in the back of my mind when we arrived, but I
didn’t think it could really happen. To get a win over here in the United
States in this kind of field is amazing. I had some trouble during the
tournament, but I backed it up with some good golf,” Schaper said.
signed off with a 70 to take second, and Vilips sealed third on four-under with
final round 70.
tender age of 16, Schaper became the first junior in the golfing history of
South Africa to achieve the ‘grand slam’ of Nomads SA Boys titles, winning the
U-13, U-15 and U-17 tournaments and the elusive double at the Nomads SA Boys
U-19 Championship, and anyone following his career would not be surprised by
his breakthrough in the United States.
Benoni golfer recently held his own in the 192-strong field that lined up in
the Challenge Tour’s inaugural ISPS Handa World Invitational, presented by
Modest! Golf Management. Not only did he take the amateur honour at the Galgorm
Spa and Golf Resort, but Schaper outclassed some top professionals to tie for
gained so much from the experience of participating in two GolfRSA National
Squad Tours to the United Kingdom and Ireland, where we competed against the
best amateurs in the world in top class amateur events,” Schaper said.
coach Grant Veenstra has also helped me with my mental game. I can stay in the
moment and shut out everything else that happens on the course around me, which
is a huge benefit for me. And the support from my family, my coach and GolfRSA
has been amazing. They have given me the tools to just go out there and play
and I’m really grateful for their efforts to help me advance my career.”
victory at TPC Sawgrass also came with two major pay-offs.
has he comfortably made the International Team for the 2019 Junior Presidents
Cup, but the junior has earned himself an invitation to the Alfred Dunhill
Links Championship, courtesy of businessman and GolfRSA patron, Johann Rupert.
super excited to go back to Leopard Creek,” said Schaper, who tied for fourth
in the African Amateur Championship at Leopard Creek in February.
huge prize! Leopard Creek one of my favourite courses and it will be incredible
to tee it up with the pros and see how my game holds up,” Schaper said.
Rupert has done so much for golf and GolfRSA and I just want to say I’m so
grateful to be on the receiving end of his goodwill and his incredible passion
for South African golf.”
Schaper came up trumps in the Junior Players Championship, the rest of the
GolfRSA National Squad members had mixed results.
Vorster (67, 75, 73) from the Southern Cape tied for seventh on one-under,
fellow Louis Oosthuizen Junior Golf Academy member Jordan Duminy (72, 76, 77)
and Sam Simpson (75, 74, 76) tied for 48th on nine-over, and Casey Jarvis from
Ekurhuleni rallied after an opening 81 with rounds of 78 and 73 to finish in
the top 70.
and Jarvis are currently ninth and 13th in the International Team standings and
will have to wait until Wednesday when the World Amateur Golf Rankings are
updated to see if they will join Vorster (2), Schaper (3), Simpson (5) and
Christo Lamprecht (6) for the matches against the United States at Royal
Melbourne Golf Club in December.