The big-hitting Free State junior Wilco Nienaber hammered out a two-stroke victory in the Nomads North and South National Order of Merit thanks to a bucket full of birdies in Tuesday’s final round at Bloemfontein Golf Club.
The 16-year-old Bloemfontein golfer burst from the blocks with a six-birdie blitz at his home course and fired a six under 66 to celebrate his fourth trophy finish – and a third national junior victory – this season at eight-under-par 208.
Southern Cape’s Bradley de Beer carded 68 to take sole second at 210, while overnight leader Otto van Buynder from Gauteng North finished a further two strokes back after a final round 71.
Nienaber trailed former Tshwane Junior Open champion Van Buynder by one shot at the start of the final round, but in no time, he shot to the top of the pile.
The grade 11 Grey College learner drove it down the middle at the 409 metre par four first, stuck an eight-iron to three feet and holed the birdie putt to stay within a shot of Van Buynder. He parked an eight-iron six feet from the hole at the par-four second made the birdie for a share of the lead.
He matched Van Buynder’s birdie at the par-five third, but when Van Buynder dropped at the short fourth, the local favourite sunk a 12-footer for birdie to take the outright lead at six under.
“I left an eagle putt just short at five, but tapped in for birdie and made my sixth birdie at the sixth after I hit my second from 70 metres to a foot,” said Nienaber. “And that’s when the birdie run ended. I had a couple of chances, though.
“I missed a 12-footer at seven, left a four-foot putt short at 11 and my birdie attempt at 12 horse-shoed right back at me. At 14, I hit my tee shot into the hazard and made bogey but I managed to get the shot back with a birdie at 16. Unfortunately I short-sided myself with my tee shot at 18 when I landed in the trees and I couldn’t take advantage of the last par five.”
The victory in Bloemfontein follows podium finishes in the prestigious Curro SA Juniors International and the Northern Cape Open in March and the junior circuit’s season-opening Nomads National Order of Merit at Benoni Country Club in January.
Nienaber was in threatening form in the first two rounds of last week’s Nomads SA Boys U-19 Stroke Play Championship, but rather ironically, his putter went cold. Deadlocked for the lead at the 36-hole mark after rounds of 67 and 68, he closed with rounds of 71 and 73 on the final day to tie for fourth.
“I couldn’t buy a putt in the last two rounds and I was hugely disappointed,” Nienaber said.
“It stung, because I had played so well in the first two rounds. My goal is to finish the season in the top 15 in the Open Amateur rankings and try to lead the Under-19 Junior Rankings and that’s why I’m really pleased with this result. Dips are part of playing this sport. If you want to make it, you have to take the punches and use the disappointments to inspire you to keep at your goals.
“I had a lot of pressure coming in as the tournament favourite at my home course and I just want to say thanks to all my fellow members of the Quintin Williams Academy who came out to support me in the final round. Having you guys out there rooting for me was really inspiring.”
FINAL RESULT (TOP 20)
208 Wilco Nienaber 68 74 66
210 Bradley de Beer 72 70 68
212 Otto van Buynder 69 72 71
214 Kian Rose 71 71 72
215 Werner Deyzel 72 70 73
216 Carlo Heunis 76 71 69; Alex van Wyk 75 72 69
218 Liam Cloete 73 75 70; Lisanthan Moodley 72 72 74
219 Yurav Premlall 70 74 75
220 Christiaan Burke 75 70 75; Luhan Bester 73 76 71
221 Jordan Duminy 73 72 76
223 Cade Cryer 76 74 73; Cole Stevens 73 76 74
224 Andre van Dyk 77 77 70; Jacques du Preez 73 77 74; Martin Vorster 73 75 76
225 Ben van Wyk 78 74 73; Carl Mwale 77 73 75; Marcus Taylor 76 74 75; Keanu Pestana 76 73 76; NJ Botha 73 73 79
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of GolfRSA