6 February 2024 – Twelve months after her resounding 11 & 10 victory in the SA Women’s Amateur Championship, Kyra van Kan achieved the double with a wire-to-wire six-shot triumph in the SA Women’s Stroke Play Championship at Modderfontein Golf Club.
It was a win that was just as emphatic as her match play triumph in 2023, as she closed with a two-under-par 70 to hold off South Africa’s top ranked junior, Kesha Louw.
KwaZulu-Natal’s Louw made a valiant attempt to chase Van Kan down with a pair of 69s in her final two rounds, but there was no stopping the Van Kan juggernaut from barrelling to victory and adding her name to the exclusive list of ‘double’ champions.
“It’s honestly awesome,” said 19-year-old Van Kan, who will be taking up a golf scholarship at the University of Tennessee in April. “I’ve always dreamed of this since I was a little girl, since I started playing golf. I set myself this goal at the start of the week and it’s an incredible feeling to stand here with the trophy, knowing I got it done.”
Van Kan followed an opening 71 with a five-under 67 to start the final round with a healthy five-shot lead, but admits it wasn’t an easy start.
“I was a bit nervous this morning. I really felt the nerves come through on the tee box and had a little bit of a stumble on the first hole, but I held myself together and I came through with a nice round,” she said. “It was two-under, which is solid golf. I’m pretty pleased with the way that I played and held myself together, even though it’s such a big event with all the nerves I was feeling.”
It’s been quite a few years since Carrie Park and Ivanna Samu traded doubles in successive years.
Park won the SA Women’s Stroke Play at Stellenbosch Golf Club in 2014 and the SA Women’s Amateur title at Kloof Country Club a year later. In 2014, Samu beat Park for the SA Women’s Amateur title at Ruimsig and a year later, she completed the double with her SA Women’s Stroke Play victory at Glendower.
Only 13 players have celebrated a rare calendar double victory, with the last being Caitlyn Macnab in the 2020 SA Women’s Stroke Play and Match Play Championships.
Of course, British Women’s Open champion Ashleigh Buhai is the most successful of players to have achieved the double. She first did it at the age of 13 in 2004, and then twice more in 2006 and 2007.
For Van Kan, the possibility of turning her double into a calendar double is a tantalising prospect: “It would be awesome to defend my title from last year,” she said. “I believe I can do it. I’m playing really good golf. I’m striking the ball well and I’m putting well. I’m going in with a lot of confidence now and I’m really looking forward to the rest of this week.”
“I’ve always looked up to Ashleigh,” said Van Kan. “She’s always been my role model. I’ve been lucky enough to see her at a few pro events. She’s an absolutely amazing person, and to have my name alongside hers on a trophy is awesome. In fact, to have my name next to all of these great amateurs is awesome. Hopefully I can follow in her footsteps and defend my title.”
Behind Van Kan, Louw’s opening 76 – compared to Van Kan’s 71 – set her back in her quest for the title, but her fine finish secured her the runner-up spot.
In third, 10 strokes behind the champion and four strokes behind Louw, was Cara Ford, with reigning English Girls and Nomads SA Girls champion Gia Raad a further shot back in fourth. Isabella Ferreira and Lisa Coetzer shared fifth.
In the Silver Division battle, it was 16-year-old Maru Chokwe who came up trumps in her debut in the GolfRSA flagship event.
The Royal Johannesburg junior, who claimed a seven-shot victory with rounds of 83, 81 and 81, credited her coach Gavan Levenson with the win. “My coach and I worked on my game, but he really prepared me well to keep calm and to stay in the moment. knowing it would be the first time that I would play in such a prestigious tournament. That really helped me, especially on the tough holes where water comes into play,” Chokwe said.
The top 32 on the final leaderboard advanced to the Championship Division, while the next 32 players advanced to the Flight Division.
A tournament total of 254 landed Chokwe in the bottom draw and teenager is looking forward to taking her winning form into her first SA Women’s Amateur Championship. “I haven’t played much match play, so I am going to do my best just to play hole-for-hole and not to get influenced by my opponent. Match Play is very different, because you can easily drop and go down. The trick is to remember that you just have to win a hole to square the match and that is what I will focus on.”