Giant-killer Nel claims WP Amateur glory

Unheralded Andre Nel capped his giant-killing run with victory in the Western Province Amateur Championship at Rondebosch Golf Club on Saturday.

The 19-year-old KeNako Academy student defeated South Africa’s number two ranked Teaghan Gauche with an impressive 3 & 2 victory.

Nel was 2-down after a bogey-bogey start, but tamed his nerves with a birdie at third hole and squared the match with another gain at the seventh. He assumed control of the match with a third birdie at the eighth and kept a firm grip on the lead to turn 1-up going down the last 18 holes.

However, after starting the second trip par-birdie-birdie, Nel surprised with back-to-back bogeys.

“I think the nerves got me a little again,” he stated.

“I hit two very poor tee shots at the fourth (22nd) and fifth (23rd) holes. It took me a few holes just to settle down again. At the seventh (25th), I travelled from the trees on the right to the trees on the left, but I chipped it close and boxed the putt for birdie.

“I stayed super calm after that. Teaghan came back with three birdies on the trot from the third (21st) to square the match and we halved the seventh, but I birdied the ninth (27th) to go 1-up again.”
Gauche battled valiantly, but there was no shaking Nel and the Gonubie Golf Club native closed with three successive birdies from the 32nd to seal his victory.

Nel hit the golfing radar with a joint 10th finish in the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship Stroke Play Qualifier in March, but was summarily dispatched 6 & 4 by Western Province’s Carlo O’Reilly in the second round of the Match Play Section.

He made some noise again during the ProShop Northern Amateur Qualifier where he tied for second behind fellow KeNako Academy player, Jade Buitendag, who also hails from Border. Once again, he exited the Match Play Division early.

This time, however, better control and a solid game helped him stay the course.

The Southern Cape golfer exacted his revenge on O’Reilly with a 3 & 2 first round victory and downed top Province amateur Ian Snyman at the 20th hole to reach the quarter-finals. He handed Central Gauteng’s Darin de Smidt a 6 & 5 drubbing and dispatched Rupert Kaminski, another Central Gauteng standout, 3 & 2 in the semi-final.

Nel came into the Western Province Amateur on the back of a solid performance in the recent SA U-23 Inter-Provincial, where he contributed greatly to Southern Cape’s B-Division victory and finished the championship joint 10th in the B-Section’s Most Valuable Player list.

“The SA U-23 IPT was definitely responsible for my current form,” said Nel, who catapulted to 16th in the South African Golf Association Open Amateur rankings following a productive week in the Western Province.

“I joined the KeNako Academy at the start of 2014 and my coach (Roger Wessels) and I have been hard at work implementing some swing changes. I felt that it was all starting to come together in March and everything held up well during the Inter-Provincial.

“I definitely arrived in Cape Town with a solid game and some confidence and I think it helped in the Stroke Play and Match Play Championships.

“This is definitely the biggest achievement of my career and I am incredibly thankful for the support from Roger, Ron Boon at KeNako Academy and my parents.

“Hopefully this is the start of bigger things to come, but for now, I just really want to enjoy the moment. The Western Province Amateur is a huge tournament to win, because it is steeped in history and it’s a great feeling to add my name to a trophy that boasts the names of so many South African stars.”

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

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