Duke of York a wake-up call for Gous

All Zander Gous wanted before he shook the sand of Royal St Georges from his spikes, was just one birdie. After two days of negative numbers, the 17-year-old South African junior got his wish at the par-five 14th in the final round of the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy and a 73 lifted him to a tie for 25thin the world-class field.

But that one birdie was all the Mpumalanga teenager could talk about after he touched down in South Africa after three gruelling days of competition in the United Kingdom.

“There I was, the reigning Nomads SA Boys U-19 champion, representing South Africa in one of the most prestigious, invitation-only championships in the world,” Gous said. “I was rubbing shoulders in an exclusive field of national champions or highest ranked juniors from 32 countries and my scorecards over the first two rounds looked like a colouring book. Not one birdie in 36 holes.”

The 56 players had to contend with fierce wind and rain in the first two rounds, yet Gous said he knew he was in for a hard time after the practice round.

“I looked at this course and thought whoever designed it had never played a shot of golf in his life,” he said. “You can park 4x4s in the bunkers and you could shoot Survivor in that rough. No doubt about it, Royal St Georges is a tough old course and it earned it reputation hosting 14 of the toughest Open Championships.”

The Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation golfer had six bogeys and a double bogey for an opening 78 and had five bogeys and three double bogeys for an 81 in the second round.

Gous said he was absolutely downtrodden after the first two rounds.

“I was shell-shocked,” he said. “I can’t even remember the last time I played a round of golf without a birdie, let alone so many drops. It was incredibly frustrating watching the other guys breeze around the course, because I know I’m better than the scores I was shooting.”

But Gous did redeem himself with that final round 73, comprising four bogeys and that coveted birdie.

“Over the front nine and around the turn, I still pushed too hard and I had four bogeys,” he explained. “I badly wanted to improve on my previous scores, but then I realised I was forcing it too much.

“After pars at the 12th and 13th, I hit the first perfect shot of the whole tournament into the green at the 14th and boxed the putt for birdie. I hit every shot in the bag over the course of three days at Royal St Georges; heck, I even hit some shots I didn’t even knew I had. But that one, that perfect shot delivered the goods. That’s when I realised what it takes to play these courses. You need perfection.”

Gous said the experience was frustrating, exciting, enlightening and humbling for him and reigning Nomads SA Girls champion Ji Sun Kang from the Western Province, who tied for 16th with three successive 76s.

“We both arrived in England as the national winners from our country and we both felt that we had earned our right to play in the tournament, but it was only during the tournament that we realised how far short we fall from our opponents,” he explained.

“Most of the guys we played against, compete internationally on a weekly basis. They have a lot of exposure to courses like Royal St Georges and that is a luxury we don’t have.

“I guess we learned first-hand that what they say about being a big fish in a small pond in South Africa is true. We start thinking we are great players and we need the international competition to cut us down to size.

“The guy who won, Guido Migliozzi from Italy, shot 73-70-72 to win. I shot 78-81-73 to finish 25th. That was a big wake-up call. I really thankful to the South African Golf Association for sending me to the Duke of York, because I know without a doubt that I made the right choice opting for college golf in the United States next year instead of turning pro.”

To view the final result of the 2013 Duke of York Young Champions Trophy, click HERE.

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