Former No 1-ranked junior Jayden Schaper made a welcome return the winner’s circle when he claimed the Nomads North and South title on Wednesday.
The Ebotse golfer ended a 12-month winning drought on the national circuit on a dramatic final day at Country Club Johannesburg, showing all his experience under pressure as he held off a charging Cole Stevens with a five-under-par 67 to triumph on 15-under 201.
The first junior to capture all five Nomads SA Boys titles with his double whammy in the Under-19 Stroke Play and Match Play Championships, Schaper dominated the rankings for the better part of 2017.
The 16-year-old GolfRSA National Squad member hit a dry spell after his Bridge Fund Managers Junior Series win last October, but showed glimpses of a return to form with victories in the Fancourt and Ebotse Club Championships.
Schaper played himself into a three-way tie for the lead with rounds of 68 and 66 at the Rocklands Course and headed into the final round on 10-under alongside Stevens and recent Africa Junior Open champion Casey Jarvis.
He overturned a bogey at the 2nd with three consecutive birdies from the 3rd to race clear of his co-leaders and never looked back, despite valiant efforts from Central Gauteng pair Stevens and Kian Rose.
‘I had a three-putt at the 2nd, but I recovered quickly with a two-putt birdie at the par five,’ said the Grant Veenstra Golf Academy student.
‘I hit 6-iron to eight foot and boxed the putt at the short hole and landed a 5-iron left of the bunker at 5th, leaving myself 110 metres to the flag. My second shot pitched behind the flag and spun back to six foot.’
Schaper made seven straight pars and eagled the par-five 13th to go 14 under.
‘I was a bit annoyed with myself after I didn’t birdie 12th, the easiest par five of the day, but the eagle made up for it,’ he said. ‘I hit a great drive down the left, 4-iron to foot and tapped in.’
Cole got it to 12 under through eight holes, but back-pedalled after a brace of bogeys at the 9th and 10th. However, the South African Golf Development Board player birdied the 12th and matched Schaper’s eagle at the 13th to close the gap to one shot.
Schaper edged ahead with a birdie at the short 15th but when he dropped at the 16th and Stevens birdied the par four, the pair were tied for the lead with two to play.
‘We both made par at 17th and I knew I needed a birdie finish to win,’ said Schaper. ‘Normally I hit 2-iron off the tee at 18th and 9-iron or wedge into the green, but I’ve been hitting the driver really well, so I went with it and hit a great shot down the middle. I hit lob-wedge from 95 metres out and the ball spun back to six foot. The putter was a bit cool all day, so it was great to hear the ball drop in the cup.’
Schaper was pleased to hit form before he departs for the United States to compete in the Junior Players Championship.
‘I’ve got great memories of that event, because I made birdie at the last hole last year to make the International Team for the Junior Presidents Cup,’ he said. ‘I didn’t have great results during the GolfRSA National Squad Tour to the UK, but I came back with so much experience. I learned a lot about myself and it highlighted the things I needed to work on. I’ve put in some hard work in the last month and it’s really pleasing to see it pay off like this.’
His winning total of 201 was one shot better than Stevens, who carded a 68, and five better than Rose and Jarvis. Rose closed with a 71 while Jarvis, who won the Nomads SA Boys U15 and U17 titles this season, returned a final round 72.
201 Jayden Schaper 68 66 67
202 Cole Stevens 68 66 68
206 Kian Rose 67 68 71; Casey Jarvis 67 67 72
209 Ayden Senger 69 70 70
211 Marcus Taylor 72 69 70; Warwick Purchase 72 67 72; Yurav Premlall 71 68 72; Amilkar Bhana 70 71 70
213 Christiaan Maas 72 70 71; Kieron van Wyk 70 74 69
214 Samual Mckenzie 72 69 73; Ryan van Velzen 71 69 74
216 Drikus Joubert 71 74 71; Nikhil Gopal 71 70 75
218 Brendan Porter 70 74 74; Carl Mwale 67 73 78
219 Nash de Klerk 70 71 78
220 Connor Williamson 77 70 73; Saul Moss 72 74 74