Grace inspires rising stars at Joburg Junior Open
Four-time European Tour champion Branden Grace was the talk of the town at the inaugural Joburg Junior Open on Thursday, especially among joint first round leaders Jason Froneman, Luke Mayo and Caylum Boon.
The trio, who carded three-under-par 69s, were not discussing former Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play winner’s sizzling performance at Leopard Creek to lead the Alfred Dunhill Championship, but rather his prowess at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington to win the 2012 Joburg Open.
“He shot rounds of 67, 65 and 72 at the East Course that year,” said Froneman, a student at the Gary Player School of Champions at the Momentum World of Golf.
“That is just plain impressive, because this is such a tough course; if you don’t play this layout with a plan and a hot putter, you are doomed.”
The Ekurhuleni golfer has eight straight birdies after a bogey start, but levelled the score with a birdie start at the first after the turn. Despite battling a lukewarm putter, Froneman notched another birdie at the par-three fifth and finished with a brace of birdies for his 69.
“My best shot of the day was the birdie I made at the fifth,” the Kempton Park golfer said.
“I parked a gap-wedge a foot from the hole. I had some chances, but the putter just stayed cold.”
Mayo from Mount Edgecombe has seen his fair share of tough courses this year, especially The Golf Club Biella in Italy, where he represented South Africa at the Italian International Under-16 Championship.
“The East Course rates right up there with the toughest courses I’ve played,” said the KwaZulu-Natal player, who offset two bogeys with five birdies to claim a share of the three-way lead.
“We are lucky that they’ve had some rain lately, so the ball isn’t running out in the fairways. The greens are pretty receptive, too, so you could afford to go for the pins. But when you hit it offline around here, you are in serious trouble.”
Boon from the KeNako Academy in George had the most adventurous round.
He parred the 10th and 11th and dropped a shot at the par-three 12th, but rallied with back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th. The Southern Cape golfer reeled in another birdie at the 17th before he finished the loop in 32 with an eagle at the par-five 18th.
“I only had 90 meters to the pin and I hit a gap-wedge straight at the pin and it stopped a foot from the hole,” said Boon. “I dropped shots at the second and the eighth, but it was nice to finish with a birdie to split the lead three-ways.”
The leading trio commended the Sunshine Tour and the South African Golf Association collaboration to put on a tournament in the week before the SA Junior Inter-Provincial.
“Our last junior tournament was quite a while back, although some of the juniors did compete on the Open Amateur circuit,” Boon said. “It’s really excellent that we have been given this chance to get the rust off and to get competitive and in the right frame of mind for the IPT next week.
“The leaderboard is pretty jam-packed. There are a lot of good players behind us and they will be chasing hard. The final round should be a real contest.”
To view the first round scores and final round live scoring, click HERE
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.