Southern Cape junior Franklin Manchest will be looking for a strong start to extend a fruitful season thus far when he joins the 141-strong field in the first Curro SA Juniors International at Durbanville Golf Club today.
The 18-year-old KeNako Academy golfer claimed his first national title in the Nomads Coastal NOom at Umhlali Country Club in January and followed with a top 15 finish in the Dr Bam National.
Last month, the George golfer helped the South African Golf Development Board (SAGDB) to their best finish yet in the seventh International Triangular.
He won both his singles matches against Callum Fyfe from Scotland and SAGA Junior player Keelan van Wyk and combined with Neswill Croy to collect two more points in the foursomes.
And just a week ago, the Southern Cape Golf Union’s number four ranked player outclassed some of the country’s top ranked amateurs to take third in the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship Stroke Play Qualifier.
Manchest opened with an expensive 76 in the 2015 Curro SA Juniors International, but rallied with two successive 72s in blustery conditions at Durbanville Golf Club to surge to a tie for 14th on four over 220.
With windy conditions forecast for the first two days of the 54-hole event, Manchest’s skills in the wind will definitely be to his advantage this week.
Improvements to the golf course have toughened up the championship layout and include new water hazards, added slopes and a tighter out of bounds on some holes and will undoubtedly test the ability of the talented field.
To put his name on the prestigious Boys Division trophy, Manchest will not only have to stave off his own countrymen, but outplay 45 top ranked international challengers from 13 countries, including Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Namibia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Zimbabwe.
“I’m feeling a lot more confident coming into the championship this year,” Manchest said during the practice round on Monday.
“Last year it was all a bit overwhelming, because it was the first time that I competed in an international event of this size. I realised that I let the event dictate to me in the first round and that it really was just like any other tournament. You just have to play the course and get on with it and shut out all the other stuff.
“I played solidly after the first round and this year. I’ve gained a lot more experience and confidence in the last 12 months. I’m really excited to see how I will do against the international players.”
The local challenge in the Global Junior Golf showpiece will be further strengthened by fellow members of the GolfRSA National Squad Keelan van Wyk, Sentanio Minnie and Free State pair Steven le Roux and Wilco Nienaber.
Van Wyk is ranked ninth, while 2015 Africa Junior Open champion Minnie currently holds the 11th spot in the SAGA U-19 rankings.
SAGDB graduate Le Roux tied for 11th last year, while 16th ranked Nienaber raked in two national and one provincial victory last year. Both were members of the victorious Free State team that earned promotion at last year’s South African Under-19 Inter-Provincial.
By Lali Stander