SA junior quartet primed Italian U-16 Champs

Four of South Africa’s top juniors are primed to challenge their European equals at the Italian International Under-16 Championship in Italy in early September.

Dylan Naidoo, Herman Loubser, Luca Filippi and Luke Mayo will fly the flag for the South African Golf Association (SAGA) at the eighth edition of the prestigious 72-hole international stroke play championship at Golf Club Biella from 2-4 September.

“The Italian International Under-16 Championship carried a lot of World Amateur Golf Ranking points and traditionally draws some of the top Junior amateurs from around 20 countries,” SAGA Golf Integration Manager Eden Thompson.

“South Africa has participated in the championship since its inception in 2007 and we have enjoyed some great results in the past.

“In 2011 our team took third in the 36-hole Nation’s Trophy team event and Tristen Strydom tied for second in the Individual Competition. Last year, the team took second in the team event and Kyle McClatchie finished third on the individual leaderboard.

“We have selected four form players and we expect them to perform well for South Africa.”

South African-born Loubser spent 13 years honing his craft in the United Kingdom until his family relocated to Aggeneys is in the Northern Cape late last year.

In his debut performance on home soil, the Boland golfer lifted the Nomads SA Boys Under-15 Championship in early January.

Loubser has since made his mark on the local junior circuit and ranks second on the overall SAGA Junior Rankings.

He impressed with a tie for sixth at the Nomads SA Boys U-19 Stroke Play Championship in April and also reached the semi-final of the Match Play Championship at Umhlali Country Club.

In addition to top five finishes in three prominent Nomads Order of Merit events, he underlined his ranking even further with a runner-up finish at the Nomads SA Boys U-17 Championship in July.

The 2013 Ilse of Man U-18 Boys champion nearly qualified for the England side last, but Loubser is relishing the chance to perform for his home country this year.

“I am really excited about my selection to the team,” the Paarl Boys High learner said. “I played in England, but my roots are in South Africa and I believe I’ve earned my way on to the team.

“We have all performed well at home this season and Dylan and Luca also impressed abroad. It would be absolutely fantastic to be part of a winning South African team in Italy.”

Central Gauteng’s Naidoo has been on the radar for some time but rose to prominence when he claimed the Nomads SA Boys Under-17 Championship in early July.

Following his triumph in Polokwane, the Modderfontein golfer and Dylan Mostert from Ekurhuleni recently tested themselves at the Junior World Golf Championship in the United States, which drew 230 top juniors from around the world.

Mostert tied for 21st while Naidoo claimed a share of share of 28th at Torrey Pines. The pair also combined to secure a third place finish for South Africa in the team event.

“Herman, Luca, Luke and myself all set ourselves the goal to make the Italian team,” the TuksSport High School learner said from Pinehurst, where he will expand on his international experience at the US Kids World Teen Championship this week.

“I think it’s pretty cool that we all made the grade and our next goal will be to try and land South Africa’s first team victory in this event. I believe we are a strong enough team to go all the way.”

Filippi from the Western Province also underlined his growing stature against a strong international line-up at the R&A’s Junior Open Championship in England last week.

Not only did the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member claim a tie for 12th on the final day, but Filippi led the 21-strong African field in the 54-hole Stroke Play Championship at the prestigious West Lancashire Golf Club.

Meanwhile Mayo from KwaZulu-Natal, who represented the SA Junior Team at the Challenge Cup Team Tournament in May, has notched a handful of top 10 finishes this season, including a season’s best second at the SA U-15 Championship at Fish River Sun Country Club in January.

“Competitive experience is vital to young players’ development,” Thompson said. “The chance for our juniors to go up against the cream of the crop in Europe is invaluable and we look forward to seeing how they measure up in Italy.”

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