KZN a happy hunting ground for Rebula

Top SA junior Jovan Rebula claimed the first Nomads National Order of Merit tournament of new season after edging out Wingate Park junior Juan-Pierre Cooper with a birdie at the first play-off hole on Friday.

Tied at one-over-par 217 at the end of regulation play, the pair had another go at the par-four 10th at Royal Durban Golf Club, with Rebula emerging as the victor after sneaking a 30-foot slider into the hole for birdie.

Ironically, while the signature Els swing was in full working order, the 16-year-old battled a balky putter for the greater part of his 54-hole campaign; yet, the short stick would serve up the two crucial putts that secured the win.

“I hit the ball really well, but I struggled to find the pace and rhythm of the greens,” said Rebula, who had some work to do after an opening 74 and second round 73.

“The way I was putting, I though a top three or top five finish would be great, but then I holed the trap shot for eagle at the second and I got really excited.”

Although he was struggling on the dance floor, the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation player remained positive. After a birdie at the fourth, he was able to erase bogeys at the seventh and 11th with birdies at the eighth and 12th.

“I dropped a shot at the 13th after I missed the putt for par after a good little bump and run, and bogeyed the 16th as well, but I still felt I had a chance,” he said. “I really worked on staying positive this week and that positive energy carried me to the play-off.”

Coming up to the 18th, Rebula knew he needed a birdie for a 70 to tie Cooper, who closed with a three-under-par 69. “It’s a relatively short par-five, but you have a much better shot at the green from the 10th fairway, so that’s the route I went,” Rebula explained. “I had 160 meters left to the pin, but I hit an eight-iron just short. I chipped it to three feet and boxed the putt for birdie.”

At the play-off hole, Rebula pulled his tee shot slightly left and, although he had a reasonably good lie and got it to the green, he was left with a tricky slider.

“The putt was probably 35-feet but for once, I got the pace and line just perfect and it rolled straight into the hole. It’s a great feeling to start the season with a win. It just sets you on a positive course for the next couple of months and gives you something great to build on.”

It was the second time in six months that a trip to KwaZulu-Natal paid handsome dividends for the top junior contender, who staved off a spirited challenge from Limpopo’s Hennie du Plessis in June last year to claim a wire-to-wire victory in the Nomads SA Boys Under-17 Championship at Mount Edgecombe Country Club.

“I suppose it could be the coastal influence, but whatever it is, I’m not complaining,” Rebula said.

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