26 February 2023 – Kyra van Kan ditched the bridesmaid tag when she capped a memorable week at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate with a dominating victory in the final of South African Amateur Championships in February.
It was third time’s the charm for the GolfRSA No 1 as she made up for her near misses with a comprehensive 11 & 10 victory over Free State’s Ellandri van Heerden in the 36-hole final at The Woods Course.
“I’m lost for words,” Van Kan said after winning the title on her third visit to the final. “I was playing really well all day. I had a lot of confidence out there and I was setting myself up for birdies. The putts were dropping, and golf is a lot of fun when that is happening.”
Van Kan lost out to Caitlin Macnab in the 2020 final when she was just 14 years old at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club, and last year she was edged by good friend Marine Legentil in the final at the same venue.
The 17-year-old had finished second to Sam Whateley in the SA Women’s Stroke Play Championship earlier in the week, but once the match play stage got underway, she was a dominating force.
She had comfortable wins over Nomkhosi Mthiyane from Royal Durban (3&2), Randpark’s Cara Ford (6&5), Isabella Ferreira from George Golf Club (4&2) and Chloe Royston from Cotswold Downs (7&5) in the lead up to the 36-hole final.
Unheralded Van Heerden beat Centurion’s Ame van der Merwe 2 & 1 in the first round, then scored a huge scalp when she knocked out Whateley 2-up to reach the quarterfinals. The Bloemfontein golfer booked a semi-final spot with a 1-up victory over Olivia Krige from Country Club Johannesburg, and advanced to the final after ousting GolfRSA No 3 Bobbi Brown at the 20th hole.
“It has been a dream tournament for me. I got much further than I ever expected,” said the excited 15-year-old of reaching her first final. “I am going up against one of the best match play golfers in the country, so I am going into the final with no expectations. I will just play hole-by-hole and see where it takes me.”
As expected, Van Kan took early command in the match and was 7-up following a birdie-eagle-birdie sequence from the 13th but bogeyed the 18th to finish the first loop 6-up.
When the GolfRSA National Squad pair headed out in the afternoon, Van Kan shifted into top gear, and it was game over after she fired three successive birdies from the 23rd hole.
Enjoying the biggest success of her young career, Van Kan’s smile lit up the room as the country’s No 1-ranked amateur lifted the Championship Division trophy during prize giving. “It was a relief to finally win this, having come so close in the past,” said the Glendower golfer. “I’ve been after this trophy for a long time, so to finally get it done means the world to me.”
The Flight Division was won by Jemima Ullyett, who beat Germany’s Stephanie Kiefer 2-up in their 18-hole final.
It was a fantastic achievement for 17-year-old Zimbali golfer and one that the local fans thoroughly enjoyed. Ullyett trailed early on as Kiefer won the second and fourth holes, but she kept her head down and when she won three holes on the bounce from the 7th, the McKenna Academy Grade 12 learner knew she could do it.
“It was a really tight match, and we both battled for supremacy over the last 11 holes,” Ullyett explained. “I won the ninth, she won 10 and so it went until I won the 17th with par. I just told myself to hit the fairway and the middle of the green. Par could win it for me. The pressure was on Stephanie to square and take us to extra holes.”
Kiefer found the water off the tee though, and when she popped her approach into the greenside bunder, the German conceded the match.
“I’m so thrilled with this win,” said the champion. “My only goal for the week was to make the match play stage, because last year I just missed out. I am working really hard at my game, but it is tough to balance golf and the academic demands, so to pull this one through is really, really special.”