Ekurhuleni junior Jayden Schaper cemented his No 1 spot in the Junior Rankings with a two-shot victory in the Nomads National Order of Merit Inland.
Schaper overhauled overnight leader Yurav Premlall with a brilliant four-under par 68 at Benoni Country Club to triumph on 11-under par 205.
The Ebotse junior started the final round three shots behind Premlall, who led the field after rounds of 69 and 65, and was targeting successive victories after his triumph last Friday in the season-opening Nomads National Order of Merit Coastal at Umhlali Country Club.
Premlall made a birdie start, which Schaper answered with a gain of his own, but his lead increased to four shots after a Schaper bogey at the second.
However, the gap was back to three shots after the leader dropped shots at five and six, and while Premlall and the rest of the field struggled to find rhythm and momentum, Schaper made a big move with three birdies on the bounce from the ninth hole.
He bogeyed 12, but when Premlall dropped another shot at the short 15th, Schaper swung the tournament into his favour, making the most of the drivable par-four 16th. After a good tee shot, he chipped it to give and tapped in for birdie and a one-shot lead.
A closing birdie at the par-five 18th earned him a two-shot victory.
South Africa’s top-ranked junior made South African golfing history in 2017 when he became the first player to win all four Nomads SA Boys titles, but the winner’s circle proved elusive in 2018 until he edged out Cole Stevens in the Nomads North and South Junior in August last year.
A tie for second in the Joburg Junior Open in early December signalled a return to form, and just a week later 17-year-old Schaper led Ekurhuleni to successive victories in the SA U19 Interprovincial Tournament. He played a captain’s innings at Benoni Country Club that earned him the top spot alongside Christo Lamprecht on the Most Valued Player’s list.
Schaper was delighted to start the 2019 season on a winning note.
‘I got off to a pretty rough start, but the three birdies in a row from nine gave me some great momentum,’ he said. ‘I took advantage of the par fives and made a great birdie at 11.
‘I hit a nice, big drive down the middle of the fairway. The pin was just tucked over the greenside bunker. I had 82 metres to the pin and I hit a soft lob-wedge that pitched at the back of the green and spun back to six foot.
‘I made a silly three-putt bogey at 12, but holed a chip from the back left of the green on 13 that kept me going. From there I just kept the ball in play to keep some pressure on Yurav.’
At the closing hole, Premlall had a chance to force a play-off after Schaper blocked his tee shot at the closing hole into the trees on the right. However, his second shot veered left into the reeds and he had to take a penalty drop.
Schaper left his approach 10 metres short of the green and chipped to six foot. Premlall hit his fourth shot from 175 metres out to 10 foot and made the par putt, leaving Schaper to putt for the win.
‘My goal for the final round was to try and close the gap and to put pressure on Yurav, because I’ve been in the same position a few times over the last two years,’ he said. ‘I’m really chuffed to win again this early in the season. There is still a lot of work to do, especially with the putter, but I’m looking forward to it.’
The GolfRSA National Squad player has set himself some lofty goals for the season. ‘My goals for 2019 are to keep my No 1 ranking and win some junior events, so that’s one down already,’ Schaper said. ‘I would also like to improve my Open Amateur ranking and get to No 1 or 2 this year.
‘I gained a lot of experience during the GolfRSA National Squad Tour last year, and I’d love to make the group chosen for the United Kingdom again. One of my goals is to play the Amateur Championship, now that I have a bit of experience from last year. And finally, my biggest goal is to qualify for the International Team again for the Junior President’s Cup by the end of the season.’
Final Result (top 20)
205 Jayden Schaper 70 67 68
207 Yurav Premlall 69 65 73
211 Jordan Burnand 72 71 68
213 Christiaan Maas 70 73 70; Christiaan Burke 69 72 72
214 Kian Rose 74 68 72
215 Warwick Purchase 73 68 74; Nikhil Gopal 72 71 72; Martin Vorster 72 70 73; Kieron van Wyk 71 71 73
216 Daniel Cronje 73 73 70
217 Jordan Duminy 78 70 69; Marcus Taylor 74 73 70
218 Amilkar Bhana 75 69 74; Ryan van Velzen 72 74 72
219 Samuel Simpson 73 70 76
220 Mike Saxer 72 76 72; Tristan Galant 72 73 75
221 Angus Klintworth 78 70 73; Samual Mckenzie 74 71 76
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