Van der Merwe & Meichtry crowned at Curro SAJI
South Africa’s Altin van der Merwe beat Finland’s Ilari Saulo by two strokes to claim the Boys Division in the Curro South Africa Juniors International, while Swiss amateur Azelia Meichtry denied 2014 winner Kaleigh Telfer from South Africa a repeat victory in the Girls Division of the Global Junior Golf Tour event at Durbanville Golf Club on Thursday.
Just 12 months after he lost the title bid to countryman Jovan Rebula, Van der Merwe got his just rewards when he lifted the prestigious international title with a fine final round exhibition.
The 18-year-old Western Province junior was two strokes off the pace at the 36-hole mark, but navigated his way to into contention with birdies at the second, fourth and fifth holes.
Flawless through the first eight holes, the Bellville golfer surrendered a shot at the par-four ninth after a plugged lie in the greenside bunker. He rallied with back-to-back birdies at the 10th and 11th to pull ahead of a chasing pack that included Saulo, Germany’s Yannick Schuetz and Timo Vahlenkamp and fellow Province junior Michael Sherriff.
While the rest fell way, Saulo produced the round of the day to pile on the pressure.
The Keimola golfer enjoyed a hot four-birdie start to weave his way into second and gains at the sixth, eighth, 12th and 13th holes left him within striking distance of the South African.
Saolo sandwiched a bogey between birdies at the 15th and 17th and parred the 18th for a superb nine-under-par 63 and set the clubhouse target at four under 212.
“I knew I just had to settle down over the home stretch, and I made four solid pars from the 13th hole,” said Van der Merwe.
The Province golfer boxed a 20-footer for birdie at the 16th and played the last two holes in pars for a 67 to seal a two stroke victory on six under 210.
“This is without a doubt the biggest achievement of my career and it’s especially great to perform like this in an international event against so many world-class juniors,” Van der Merwe pronounced.
“I am so pleased with my performance. My game had gone off the boil over the last couple of months, and I worked really hard to get back to the form. It’s very satisfying to see the hard work pay off and I hope to carry this form into the Cape Province Open in George in two weeks’ time.”
TOP 10 LEADERBOARD
210 Altin van der Merwe 76 67 67
212 Ilari Saulo FIN 81 68 63
214 Yannick Schuetz GER 74 70 70
215 Timo Vahlenkamp GER 76 67 72; Marcus Helligkilde DEN 72 70 73
216 Sami Välimäki FIN 71 72 73; Michael Sherriff 69 75 72
217 Luca Filippi 78 69 70; Justin Kersten ZIM 78 69 70; Kyle De Beer 74 70 73
Joint overnight leader Meichtry carded a final round 74 to triumph on even-par 216, three strokes ahead of 2014 champion Telfer from Bryanston, who carded a 74 to finish sole second.
Gauteng’s Woo-Ju Son, who shared the 36-hole lead with the Swiss junior, returned a 79 to tie for third on five over 221 with Western Province number one, Cara Gorlei, who signed for a 71.
Meichtry won the Nomads WGWP Junior Girls Championship in January and was thrilled to capture her second trophy on South African soil just hours before she returned to her home country.
“I am so excited to win this championship, especially against such a strong field of international players,” the 18-year-old Sierre golfer said.
“I learned a lot during my two months at the KeNako Academy and my mental and physical game has definitely improved a lot. I was very nervous at the start, which explains the bogey start, but I was able to stay focussed.
“Even when I made the double bogey at the 12th, I just kept on focussing on the next hole. The academy also taught me how important it is to have balance in your life. I missed home, but I made a lot of friends and I’m also sad to leave. It was a fantastic experience to come to South Africa and I hope to return again soon.”
TOP 10 LEADERBOARD
216 Azelia Meichtry SUI 71 71 74
219 Kaleigh Telfer 76 69 74
221 Cara Gorlei 79 69 73; Woo-Ju Son 73 69 79
222 Bianca Theron 78 70 74
224 Isabella Holpfer AUT 76 73 75
225 Ivanna Samu 78 70 77
226 Natasha Carlsson 81 72 73; Zhen Bontan NED 81 70 75;Esther Henseleit GER 80 74 72
About the Curro South African Juniors International (SAJI)
This is the fifth time South Africa plays host to the Curro South African Juniors International is the only junior international tournament and the second time the event is sponsored by Curro.
The field of 150 competitors include 83 international under 19 boys and girls from Korea, Mexico, USA, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Spain, Northern Ireland, Reunion, France, Namibia, UAE, Scotland, Austria, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Colombia and the host nation.
This marks the largest ever international participation of junior golfers to have played a tournament in South Africa. The SAJI is a fully integrated international amateur event and is endorsed by the Women’s Golf South Africa (WGSA) and the South African Golf Association (SAGA).
The SAJI qualifies for World Junior Rankings and the Royal & Ancient World Amateur Rankings, as well as SAGA and WGSA ranking points.
The organisers of the SAJI also created opportunities to showcase the world of golf to the youth of South Africa who may not otherwise have had the opportunity. Ten spots were allocated to seven boys and three girls currently enrolled in the South African Development Board programme.
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association and Womens Golf South Africa.