Reigning Nomads SA Boys Under-17 champion Wilco Nienaber held his nerve to edge out Slade Pickering from North West for the first title on South African Golf Association’s 2017 national junior circuit on Thursday.
The 16-year-old from Bloemfontein left himself with a lot to do at the final hole at Benoni Country Club, but he holed a crunch putt for bogey to capture a one-shot victory in the Nomads Inland National Order of Merit.
‘That was the most pressure I ever felt over putt,’ said the relieved youngster after he closed with a 69 to triumph on nine-under-par 207.
‘Slade and I both hit it in the water at 18 and when I duffed my six-iron out of the long grass and finished 20 meters short of the green, I thought it was over.
‘Slade was on the green for four and I overshot the pin, but he missed his par putt, which left me with a three meter putt for bogey to win. The relief I felt when that putt dropped was incredible.’
Nienaber was three off the pace after rounds of 70 and 68, but he caught up to Pickering with a couple of birdies on the front nine. When the recent Joburg Junior Open champion three-putted the eighth for bogey, Nienaber pounced with a par to claim a share of the lead.
‘I had a solid two-putt birdie at nine to go ahead and birdied 10 to pull two clear, but threw it away with a double at the 12th,’ Nienaber explained. ‘The ball pitched in front of the greenside bunker and bounced into the bunker. When I got there, the ball was plugged and I had hardly any green to work with as the pin was in front. I got too tentative with the trap shot and it stayed in the bunker.
‘We both birdied 13 and we were still tied for the lead until missed his putt at 15. Going into the last three holes, we both birdied 16, parred 17 and it looked like extra time when we both found the water at 18.
‘I’m stoked to start the season on a high note, because it gives you that little boost after the holidays. We’re heading to Royal Durban for the Nomads National Order of Merit that starts at Royal Durban on Sunday. I won this event two years ago, but I didn’t defend last year. Now I feel like I’ve got a chance to go for two in a row. It’s nice to start the second event with a bit of confidence.’
By Lali Stander
Final Result (top 10)
207 Wilco Nienaber 70 68 69
208 Slade Pickering 72 63 73
216 Robin Williams GBR 75 70 71
217 Keegan Mclachlan 75 70 72; Jayden Schaper 72 70 75; Christo (Jnr) Lamprecht 70 77 70; John Louis Liebenberg 69 73 75
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