Eagle lands Nienaber a hat-trick in Durban
Free State junior Wilco Nienaber chipped in for an eagle at Durban Country Club’s final hole to claim his third title in six days in a three-way play-off in the Nomads National Order of Merit on Tuesday.
The 14-year-old defeated former number one junior Kyle McClatchie from Ekurhuleni and Western Province rising star Luca Filippi at the first extra hole of a sudden-death play-off after the trio tied on four-over-par 220 in regulation play.
The victory followed just four days after he won the Nomads SA Boys Under-15 Championship at Rustenburg Golf Club by 10 strokes and the Clarence Junior Open by eight strokes on Sunday.
The Bloemfontein golfer carried a two shot lead into the final round and looked unbeatable when he burst from the blocks with back-to-back birdies.
However, Nienaber’s challenge went pear-shaped with some bush-whacking at the eighth, but the young gun showed maturity beyond his years to rally in a thrilling skirmish with McClatchie and Filippi down the back nine.
The young gun landed his tee shot in the fairway, but his second shot caught a bad bounce and popped into the heavy bush. After a drop, he flushed his fourth shot clear over the green into more bush.
Another drop, a fluffed chip and two putts later, Nienaber left par-five with a nine on his card.
“I got off to a really great start and I hit the ball well all day,” Nienaber said.
“At the eighth, I hit a perfect tee shots and I wanted to punch a low shot to lay up before the bunkers. I took a five-iron, but I caught a bad bounce and I watched the ball disappear into that thick bush.
“We found the ball, but I had to take a drop. One thing led to another and I made nine. I hit every shot perfectly, except for fluffing my chip, so I just needed to get on with it.”
Nienaber parred the next five holes and trailed Filippi and McClatchie by one stroke after bogeys at 14 and 15 and a double bogey at 16. He produced a nerveless par at 17 and left a birdie putt at the 18th inches short for a 78.
McClatchie bogeyed 17 and parred 18to sign for a 76, while Filippi also closed with 76 after losing the one stroke advantage with a three-putt bogey at the 18th.
With the north-west wind gusting at more than 35 kilometers an hour, the three juniors returned to the 18th. Nienaber drove it pin-high left of the green, while McClatchie and Filippi’s tee shots finished right, but short of the tea cup green.
McClatchie chipped to 12 feet and Filippi to three and a half feet. Nienaber timed a bump and run from 10 meters out to perfection.
“I was great to watch the ball race across the green and drop into the cup,” gushed the delighted champion.
“It was such a tough day out there, because the wind was really pumping and from the opposite direction than in the first two rounds.
“Kyle, Luca and I all had chances, but I’m really glad I got a shot to make it three-in-a-row. I am unbelievably excited about the win. It’s been the most amazing week of my career and I just want to carry on playing.”
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.