De Beer drives off with Africa Junior Open title

A change in tactics at the fourth extra hole yielded a huge pay off for Eastern Province junior Kyle de Beer, who bagged his first national victory in the Africa Junior Open in a play-off on Monday.

The 18-year-old Port Elizabeth golfer had taken the outright lead in the final round at the Fish River Sun Country Club, but squandered his chance at victory with back-to-back bogeys at the closing holes.

De Beer got a reprieve for his late wobble, though, when Luca Filippi from Western Province also dropped a shot at the closing hole. De Beer’s 69 and a 71 from the overnight leader saw them tie for six-under-par 210 at the end regulation play.

The pair was still dead-locked after playing the 18th hole twice and one trip down the 10th.

“Neither of us got really aggressive at the first three play-off holes, but I changed my tactics when we went down the 18th for a third time,” De Beer explained.

“Luca hit his second to the far side of the green and he had at least 10 metres to the pin, so I attacked the pin. The ball rolled about 10 feet past the flag. Luca lagged his putt to tap-in distance and I knew I had to nail the birdie putt to win.

“I got really nervous over the putter at the last two holes in regulation play and I missed two short putts. This time I just blocked everything out. I went through my routine like I would for any putt at any hole and I struck it perfectly.”

Filippi broke in the Nomads National Order of Merit event at St Francis Links in June and the 17-year-old Milnerton junior looked to be heading to the winner’s circle for a second time after taking the 36-hole lead with rounds of 67 and 72.

De Beer had gone into the final round two shots behind Filippi and one off the pace from Ekurhuleni’s Jayden Schaper – already a two-time winner this season – and Kian Rose from Central Gauteng.

The St Dominic’s Priory matriculant closed the gap with birdies at three, eight and nine and surged into the lead with another pair of birdies at 14 and 15.

“I sunk a short putt at 14 for birdie and another short one at 15 and that was the first time I thought I was in with a shout to win,” said De Beer. “I made a solid par at 16, but the nerves caught up with me when I was putting for par at 17.

“I still had a one shot lead playing 18, but I missed the par putt again and I had to wait for Luca to finish. I didn’t expect to be in a play-off, but when he also missed his par putt, it was game on. It definitely helped to play the play-off against Luca, because we are very good friends and I didn’t feel nervous going into extra time against him.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic. The biggest thing for me was keeping my focus, but I had the late wobble and was lucky to get a second chance in the play-off. Those two putts at eight and nine was key, because I’d been struggling with the putter lately and to knock in back-to-back birdie putts gave me a lot of confidence and the birdies at 14 and 15 just reinforced my self-belief.

“I can’t say how much this means to me. I’ve had massive encouragement from my family and my coach, Graeme Whale, and the members at Port Elizabeth Golf Club and it’s to pay back their support with this first win.”

De Beer from Walmer hopes to repeat this performance on the Open Amateur circuit next year.

“I had some offers from colleges in the USA, but I decided to stay home and to chase some Open Amateur victories instead,” he said. “I haven’t really competed on the Open Amateur circuit yet and I feel I will benefit most from trying to improve my ranking here at home.”

Reigning Tshwane Junior Open champion Schaper and Alex van Wyk from Southern Cape closed with respective rounds of 74 and 73 to share third on two under 214.

210 Kyle De Beer 70 71 69 (4th play-off hole)
210 Luca Filippi 67 72 71
214 Jayden Schaper 72 68 74; Alex van Wyk 71 70 73
215 Herman Loubser 74 70 71
216 Keegan Mclachlan 77 67 72; Dylan Mostert 74 70 72
217 Wilco Nienaber 74 74 69; Tyron Davidowitz 73 73 71; Byron Coetzee 72 72 73; Ethan Smith 72 71 74

Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.

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