van Wyk through to New Zealand Amateur Final

Nicol van Wyk, the 24 year old Durbanville Golf Club and Western Province amateur golfer, won both his quarter and semi finals matches today to reach the final of the New Zealand Amateur Championship.

The championship is being played at the Titirangi Golf Club in Auckland.

“Today has been unbelievable,” said the ecstatic South African in a telephonic interview after his semi final match today. It proved to be a memorable day for van Wyk in a number of aspects.

The first, in his quarter final match this morning, he managed to beat, for the second time in the last four weeks, Dean O’Riley, South Africa’s No. 1 ranked amateur, according to the latest South African Golf Association Player Rankings.

The two South Africans endured a closely fought match, van Wyk never down on O’Riley however was never more than two up either. They finished all square after 18 holes. On the 19th hole, van Wyk drove the green and two putted for a birdie. O’Riley could only manage a par and consequently lost the match.

This setup what was expected to be a very tough semi final for van Wyk, clearly the underdog. He was up against Scott Arnold, the world’s No 1 ranked amateur according to the World Amateur Golf Rankings published weekly by the R&A. The Australian beat Peter Spearman Burn 3 and 2 in his quarter final match.

Playing in cool windy conditions; “It was a 2 or 3 club wind,” is how van Wyk explained the prevailing weather, which made the going testing.

Playing in the afternoon, both van Wyk and Arnold gave the other no quarter through the first nine holes, no one player ever going more than one up on the other, eventually reaching the 9th all square.

Arnold won the 10th to go one up and held this until the 13th where he went two up. Van Wyk’s drive came to rest against a boundary fence, he tried to punch it out, hit a tree ending up with a double bogey.

Van Wyk responded with a birdie on the next hole, a par 3, to pull one back. “I hit a 6 iron close while Scott missed the green left with his tee shot,” explained the Western Province player.

Playing the 15th hole, one down, the tenacious South African sunk a 7 metre putt, with a double brake, for a regulation 4, to halve the hole. “This was a real morale booster,” said a smiling van Wyk after his round.

The next two holes both players played in regulation. “However, on hole 17, Scott chipped in, from the edge of the green, for his par, I sunk a 2 metre putt to take the match to the 18th hole,” said van Wyk.

With the Australian one up, playing the final hole, van Wyk had to win it to stay in the game.

Arnold hit is approach to just over 3 metres from the flag, van Wyk slightly closer at just over 2 metres. The Australian’s birdie putt lipped out and the South African nailed his birdie putt taking the match to all square. “Although the putt was not too long, it had over a metre break to it, so I was really pleased to nail that,” is how van Wyk explained what turned out to be the marvellously important putt.

The players moved to the 1st hole of the playoff. Van Wyk drove the green missed his 3 metre putt for an eagle. The Australian found a greenside bunker with his drive, blasted out to less than 3 metres from the flagstick and sunk his birdie putt for a half.

The second playoff hole both players reached the green in two and two putted, to move onto the 21st hole and 3rd playoff hole.

Both players hit a 2 iron off the tee. Van Wyk found the fairway. He hit a 9 iron to within 2 metres of the flag. Arnold pulled his tee shot, then he hit his second just over the green into the long rough. He had a difficult chip which left him with a testing par putt which he missed. Van Wyk two putted for his par and won the match, for another memorable moment.

“We had over 50 spectators walking with us and a television crew following our every move today, it was a real tester,” said an elated van Wyk after his semi final match.

In qualifying for the New Zealand Amateur Championship final, van Wyk emulates the 1998 performance Trevor Immelman.

Van Wyk’s opponent, in the final, is another Australian Matt Jager. Jager beat New Zealand’s last hope of having a player in the final, James Hamilton, one up.

The final will be played over 36 holes. The winner will be crowned the 2009 New Zealand Amateur Champion. If van Wyk manages to do that, he will be the first South African to have held this trophy.

New Zealand Amateur Championship
Quarter Finals Results
Titirangi Golf Club
(All players New Zealanders unless stated otherwise)

Ben Wallace lost to Matt Jager (AUS) 2 down;
Rob Noffke lost to James Hamilton 2 and 1;
Peter Spearman Burn lost to Scott Arnold (AUS) 3 and 2;
Dean O’ Riley (RSA) lost to Nicol van Wyk (RSA) on 19th hole.

Semi Final Results:

Matt Jager (AUS) beat James Hamilton 1 up;
Scott Arnold (AUS) lost to Nicol van Wyk (RSA) on 21st hole.

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