Free State junior Wilco Nienaber sealed his first victory this season with a commanding wire-to-wire performance in the Nomads SA Boys Under-17 Championship in George on Thursday.
Nienaber opened with a three-under-par 69 at Kingswood Golf Estate and carried a one shot lead into the second round. The 16-year-old Bloemfontein golfer showed the nerves and composure of a true champion as he battled the unbearably cold and windy conditions for a 71 that kept his overnight advantage secure. He completed his march to victory with a final-round 70 to claim a four shot victory on six-under-par 210.
Last week’s Dimension Data Junior Open champion Christo Lamprecht from Southern Cape closed with a 69 to take second, while Chris Woollam from KwaZulu-Natal finished a further two shots adrift after signing for a final round 73.
Southern Cape duo Bradley de Beer and Martin Vorster shared fourth on one-over-par after posting respective rounds of 72 and 69.
Nienaber birdied the first and third holes and cancelled a bogey at the fourth with a brace of gains at the eighth and ninth holes. A fifth birdie at the par-four 13th saw him move to eight-under-par, with a six shot lead on Lamprecht.
‘I tried to nurse a soft nine-iron into the green at the 15th, but hit the shot poorly and paid the price with a bogey,’ Nienaber said. ‘At the par five, I drove my tee shot left and I wanted to hit a low shot in, but connected with a little hill. I finished left of the green and with the pin at the back left, I had very little green to work with. I didn’t hit a great chip shot and the ball caught the front edge of the green and rolled right back down. I managed to get it on the green with the second chip and three-putted for a double bogey.
‘I didn’t really stress about the dropped shots, because I had a lot of shots in hand, but it was nice to birdie 17 to get one shot back.’
Nienaber made no bones about his desire to add the Nomads SA Boys Under-17 Championship title to his Under-15 victory last year and was delighted to have pulled it through.
‘Winning the Nomads SA Boys U-15 Championship last year was a major breakthrough on the junior circuit for me, so I was really keen to try to put my name on the U-17 trophy,’ Nienaber said. ‘I was going along nicely at the Dimension Data Junior Open last week, but I had a really bad final round, so I used that disappointed to really push me this week.’
‘I think that coming back from the bogey, double bogey start in the first round to lead the tournament and keeping calm, patient and in the moment in the brutal conditions in the second round was key to my victory. I am really happy with this result, and I hope I can carry this form into the next couple of events. My other goal this season is to try and win one of the Sunshine Tour Junior Open’s this season, and maybe I can go all the way at the Tshwane Junior Open in two weeks. For now, I’m just going to enjoy this moment and celebrate with the family.’
210 Wilco Nienaber 69 71 70
214 Christo (Jnr) Lamprecht 71 74 69
216 Chris Woollam 72 71 73
217 Bradley de Beer 72 73 72; Martin Vorster 70 78 69
220 Deon Germishuys 74 71 75; Ben van Wyk 73 77 70; Jayden Schaper 73 74 73; Daniel Cronje 70 71 79
By Lali Stander
Photo credit Pieter Els