Historic final awaits De Lange at Royal Birkdale

Gauteng North’s Keegan de Lange made South African golfing history as the first South African junior to contest the Boys Amateur Championship final in North West England.

The 18-year-old Pretoria golfer will face Sweden’s Marcus Svenssonn in the 36-hole final for the title at Royal Birkdale on Sunday.

“I’m was absolutely shocked to learn this news,” said De Lange, who was the lone South African starter in the international field of 252 players from 19 countries in the 89th edition of this prestigious international junior championship.

“When I knew I was playing, I checked out the past winners’ list. I saw names like Sir Michael Bonallack, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia and Pablo Martin. I didn’t see any South African winners, but I never checked the runner-up list, so I am really surprised.

“This has been an unbelievable week for me and to be the first South African finalist is really the cherry on top. I have achieved a lot of personal goals this week and it would be incredible to actually win this.

“Irrespective of Sunday’s result, I will treasure the memories from this week for a long, long time.”

After finishing fifth in the 36-hole Stroke Play Qualifier, De Lange outclassed American Ben Albin to win the first round 6 & 5.

He downed Nathan Longley from England 2 & 1 to reach the top 16 and dispatched Dane Zacharias Agerbak 4 & 3 to make the quarter-finals.

The reigning Free State Open champion held his nerve to dispatch England’s Billy Spooner at the 19th hole and, a few hours later, crossed the final hurdle when he downed Borja Martin Torre 3 & 2 in a tightly-contested final four clash.

De Lange has always viewed himself as a strong stroke play competitor and has surprised himself with his winning run at the six-time Open Championship venue.

“Actually, I am usually rubbish at match play,” he said. “I care far too much when I lost a hole or two, but I changed my mind-set for this week. I decided just to enjoy myself and not to sweat the bad holes and it’s worked well for me.

“I am a lot more relaxed, especially after a bad hole, and I am enjoying the contests. The match against Borja was definitely the toughest one of the week. He played really well and it was a real battle of wills. No-one gave a shot.”

De Lange has enjoyed the Links layout of the six-time Open Championship venue and is ready to embrace the final round battle.

“I played beautifully at St Andrews in the stroke play qualifier and that gave me confidence for the match play stage,” he said.

“This course is no walk in the park. It is a true Links layout and it is littered with pothole bunkers. Accuracy off the tee and patience are key to scoring here.”

De Lange paid tribute to his coach, former South African Open champion Gavan Levenson, for helping him plot his way at Royal Birkdale.

“Gavan has been my mentor for almost three years and transformed my game,” he said.

“I’ve been in England for a month and I regularly send him video clips of my swing. We talk all the time and he always knows just what to say. I have to credit Gavan for helping me get to the final.”

Svensson, from Halmstad Golf Club, will be looking to secure a Swedish double on Sunday and defend the title that Oskar Bergqvist won last year at Prestwick.

The 17-year-old sent Italy’s Guido Migliozzi home with a 5&4 victory in the morning’s Quarter Final to earn a match against England boys international Marco Penge for a place in the Final and sunk a birdie putt at the 18th to win the match.

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

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