Filippi thrilled with Italian experience

South Africa’s Luca Filippi finished just outside the top 10 after an impressive campaign at the eighth Italian International Under-16 Championship at Golf Club Biella in Italy.

Filippi tied for 11th on 11-over-par 303 with Italian Tadiotto Giovanni and Lindell Oliver from Finland.

The highly acclaimed course, which measures 6,497 meters, provided a tough challenge for the field of 133 players, representing 19 countries worldwide.

Filippi was one of four leading juniors selected by the South African Golf Union (SAGA) to represent South Africa in Italy, but the only one to make the 36-hole cut, set at 11-over-par 157.

The 15-year-old Western Province golfer opened with a 78 and cracked the top 20 after a second round 75. He added a third round 74 and closed with a 76 to finish 13 shots behind Italian champion Teodoro Soldati, who was the only player to finish the championship under par.

The final round was not without drama, though.

“I felt really dizzy and a doctor looked me over after 27 holes,” Filippi explained. “It turned out that my blood pressure was a little high, but quitting was not an option.

“I didn’t just want to finish the championship for me, but also for my team and for South Africa. I was pretty disappointed after the opening round, but Eden (Thompson) gave us all a pep talk and that really spurred me on. His encouragement and support was amazing.

“I had Luke Mayo on the bag and the rest of the team cheering me on. It was great having the guys rooting for me and I wanted to give it my best shot right up until the end.”

Filippi said the course presented a stern test, especially in navigating the bunkers and hazards.

“The course is incredibly tight and if you are just slightly off the fairway, you are looking at a bogey,” he explained. “It winds through dense woods and you really had to play for position.

“The greens are sloped and very fast. If you missed the fairways or hit it on the wrong side of a green, you paid the price. It is not the type of course you can pull out the driver at every hole. It forces you to use all 14 clubs in the bag and you better bring a hot putter, too.”

Over the last 12 months, Filippi has grown in stature and his achievement was hardly surprising.

The teenager enjoyed an impressive run at the Western Province Golf Union in 2013 and showed a glimpse of his blossoming talent with top five finishes in the Nomads SA Boys U-15 Championship at Fish River and the Nomads Order of Merit Coastal event at Royal Durban in January.

In April, he outclassed the country’s top amateurs and chased winner Tristen Strydom all the way to the finish line to claim second in the Nomads SA Boys U-19 Championship at Umhlali Country Club and a third place finish in the Western Province Stroke Play Championship at Milnerton Golf Links.

Filippi was equally impressive at the Junior Open Championship in England in July.

The Province golfer tied for 12th at the West Lancashire Golf Club and led the 21-strong African contingent in the prestigious biennial R&A event.

The other members representing South Africa included Mayo from KwaZulu-Natal, Dylan Naidoo from Central Gauteng and Herman Loubser from Boland.

Filippi said it was an amazing experience for all the players to tee it up in the Italian Under-16 Championship.

“To play in an event of this calibre was an incredible opportunity for us to test ourselves against the top juniors in the world,” he said.

“I really enjoyed spending time with the other team members and getting to know them. And I have to thank Eden, who travelled with us and gave us a lot of inspiration.

“It was an incredible experience and I’m sure I will be able to draw on this in the future.”

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

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