Gous, Kang ready for Duke of York debut

Reigning Nomads South Africa’s SA Boys and SA Girls champions, Zander Gous and Ji Sun Kang, will join the hunt for glory in the 13th edition of the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy at the Royal St. George Golf Club in Sandwich, England on Tuesday.

Entry into this exclusive 54-hole stroke play event is by invitation only, with spots reserved only for the current holders of Under-18 National Championships or players who have won some major golfing event in the preceding year.

Gous from Mpumalanga secured his berth when he achieved the rare “double” – winning both the SA Boys U-19 Match Play and Stroke Play titles – at Benoni Country Club in April, while Kang from the Western Province claimed a magnificent wire-to-wire victory at Orkney Golf Club in June to earn her invitation.

Womens Golf South Africa president, Cynthia Rayner, accompanied the South Africans to Sandwich.

“We are delighted that Zander and Ji Sun have earned the opportunity to compete against players of this calibre,” she said. “This year’s field is one of the strongest in recent years, so this event really presents a fantastic opportunity for both our players to gain invaluable experience.

“When you throw in a course like Royal St Georges, a 13-time Open Championship venue, the players know they are in for a first class lesson in golf.”

Looking back at the previous editions of this championship, the entry lists read like the who’s who in the golfing world.

Past participants include 2004 runner-up Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland, Italy’s Matteo Manaserro, as well as British stars Melissa Reid and Carly Booth while LPGA Tour winner Anna Nordqvist from Sweden (2004 and 2005), and European Tour champion Oliver Fisher from England (2005) ranked among the past winners.

This year promises more great action, with 56 top junior golfers from 32 countries in the title hunt.

Joining Gous in the Boys Competition are Faldo Series winner and Southeast England Boys champion, Jack Singh Brar of England, Argentine number one Alejandro Tosti, Czech National Mens Match Play champion Simon Zach, Scottish Boys champion Bradley Neil, Irish Boys champion Robin Dawson and American Nicole Morales, who won the 2013 Thunderbird International and who holds the lowest handicap in the field at +4.9.

The female players that will join Kang in the Girls Competition include Scottish Under-14 Girls champion Samantha Fuller, Caribbean Amateur champion Gabriela Santini, Clara Aveling, the Belgium U-18 champion, England Girls Open champion Sophie Keech, and Paraguay Open champion Paloma Vacarro, who also leads the senior and junior rankings in her country.

Gous and Kang agree that experience should be their top priority.

“This tournament draws the cream of the crop from around the world and any time you have the chance to play against top amateurs, it’s an opportunity to gain experience at the highest level,” the 17-year-old Pieter Retief golfer said.

“It is easy to get complacent when you win or dominate the rankings in your own country. You can’t just assume it will all go your way. The best thing to do is just to give it your best effort each day and see where that takes you.”

Korean-born Kang reached the finals of the Sanlam SA Womens Amateur Championship in July and had the opportunity to represent South Africa at the RB German Junior a month later.

“I learned first-hand how tough it can be when you play away from home,” the 17-year-old Atlantic Beach golfer said. “There are a lot of things to adjust to like the weather, the course, which side of the draw you get, but I learned a lot valuable lessons in Germany.

“It can be hard when you find yourself at the bottom end of the leaderboard, but nothing teaches you more about yourself and your game than playing at the top level. It is only way to improve and to identify your shortcomings.”

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