13-Year old Shawnelle wins Sanlam Cancer Trophy

Lali Stander reports

Golfers usually attribute a victory to a variety of reasons that could range from a change in clubs, having found their swing, a putter turned hot or even just because they packed their lucky rabbit’s foot.

But it is not often that “The Big C” is credited for a winning performance.

Two determined teenagers took a big stand against cancer when they emerged the winning side of this year’s Sanlam Cancer Challenge at Sun City on Tuesday.

Thirteen-year-old Shawnelle de Lange from Fochville and 15-year-old Benji van de Rheede from Kleinzee beat their fellow rivals for the Womens A and Mens C Division titles respectively and the overall Womens and Mens titles.

De Lange and Van de Rheede were both inspired to enter Africa’s biggest amateur tournament by their own experience with cancer.

“My younger sister Monique passed away last November after a long battle with leukemia and I entered to honour my sister,” said De Lange, the youngest finalist this year.

“I wanted to for her, but I also wanted to win so I could create awareness about cancer among the other teenagers in the country.

“Sometimes people don’t beat cancer, but it’s not a death sentence. I want them to know that if you are aware and informed about the risks of cancer, you can fight it and live to tell the story.”

De Lange won the Womens A-Division with 74 points off her six handicap. The Northwest teenager shot a 75 at the Lost City and followed with a 78 at the tough Gary Player Country Club.

“It was a great competition and I had to fight off a lot of challengers,” she said. “At the end of the day, I managed to hold it together at the Gary Player. I’m thrilled to bits about winning. It’s the biggest achievement of my career. The only down side it now they have cut my handicap to five.”

It was always going to be a tough job to catch Van de Rheede after the youngster navigated the Lost City layout in 42 points.

The 21-handicapper from Kleinzee near Kommagas in the Northern Cape also faced tough opposition at the Green Monster, but 33 points was enough to see him top the leaderboard on 75 points.

“I play the Gary Player layout on a game at home all the time, so I thought I would be okay but reality sure was a wake-up call,” said Van de Rheede.

“I was solid tee to green, but I really struggled on the greens. They are a lot faster than the ones at our nine-hole course in Kleinzee.”

The Springbok scholar said his mother’s battle with cancer served as his inspiration.

“My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer but she received treatment and is still in remission,” he explained. “When I entered the club competition I told her I was going all the way and I would win this for her, because this tournament raises money for a great cause.

“Once I won the regional qualifier, I was determined to win this for her, because 10 years ago no one talked about cancer. Now we can talk freely and hopefully I can inspire some people to take notice with what I achieved here this week.”

Henk Geldenhuys from Tzaneen Golf Club won the Mens A-Division on 73 points, while Montagu farmer Pieter Venter wrapped up victory in the B-Division on the same number.

Pat Smith from Cato Ridge Golf Club in KwaZulu-Natal won the Womens B-Division on a count-out on 67 points from Bloemfontein’s Lynette Jordaan while Durban Country Club golfer Kerry Prescher took the C-Division honours with 67 points.

WGSA President Cynthia Rayner expressed her delight at Shawnelle victory. “Shawnelle is a member of the Department of Sport and Recreation’s Junior Talent Identification Programme which has conducted two junior camps this year and it is wonderful to see the improvement these young players have shown since being on the programme.” .

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