16 August 2022 – Reigning Nomads SA Boys U-17 champion Janko van der Merwe and compatriots Fabrizio de Abreu, Marno Lange and Johndre Ludick have received a tremendous opportunity to gain international experience in the upcoming Reply Italian International Under-16 Championship.
The GolfRSA National Squad trio and Ludick – a member of the South African Golf Development Board National Squad – will join a world-class field in the 15th edition at the Biella Golf Club Le Betulle from 31 August to 2 September.
The South African quartet will be hunting a fourth title for South Africa, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Haydn Porteous, Martin Vorster and Amilkar Bhana.
DP World Tour winner Porteous was the first South African to lift the Theodore Soldati Trophy in 2008, with GolfRSA National Squad members Vorster and Bhana crowned the champions in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
“Over the years, the Italian event has become a highly-regarded junior championship on the international calendar, attracting top juniors from a multitude of countries. This year is no different, with more than 120 entries from 16 countries,” said GolfRSA CEO Grant Hepburn.
“We have participated in this event since its second year and we have a great history with three past champions, but unfortunately the global COVID-19 pandemic curbed our international participation for the last two years.
“This tournament presents a wonderful opportunity for our juniors to test themselves against top international competition and gain invaluable experience and we are delighted that we are once again able to send four of our rising young talents to the 15th edition.”
Van der Merwe is ranked third on the GolfRSA National U-17 standings, De Abreu fourth, Lange fifth and Ludick rocketed to eighth, courtesy of four top-10 finishes. The Graaff-Reinet junior is also in the top 10 on the South African Golf Development Board Order of Merit.
“Fabi represented South Africa abroad twice this year in the All Africa Junior Championship in Egypt in March, and the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup in Japan in May, but it will be the first time Janko, Marno and Johnny represent GolfRSA on the international stage,” Hepburn said.
“All four players have enjoyed a strong season to date on our national junior circuit and excelled at provincial and club level and are deserving of this opportunity. We are very excited to see how they perform in such a strong field at a top-rated European golf course.”
The team will be managed by David Younge from GolfRSA and renowned sport psychologist Theo Bezuidenhout.
Younge believes the Le Betulle layout, designed by English architect John Morrison, presents an excellent challenge for the juniors to broaden their field of expertise.
“The course is lined with silver birches, chestnut trees and century-old oaks, and to score well, the players have to position themselves well around this layout,” he said. “They won’t get away with booming drives on this course. It will test their course management skills, and their ability to strategise for optimum results. The boys are incredibly keen to represent GolfRSA on the international stage and I believe they will do us proud.”
The GolfRSA juniors and managers will depart for Italy on 27 August.