Luca Filippi went through an intense battle of attrition when he wasted an eight shot lead to lose the Dimension Data Junior Open last July, but the young Western Province standout finally got his just deserts when he claimed the St Francis Links Nomads National Order of Merit event on Monday.
Filippi made the most of the balmy first round conditions to open with a one-under-par 71 for a one shot lead over Southern Cape’s Christo Lamprecht and he closed out a battling 73 for a four shot victory over Lamprecht on even par 144.
The 17-year-old Milnerton junior looked to be cruising to victory after a trio of birdies at five, six and seven, but as the players headed down the back nine, they were met with the full force of a rampant south-westerly wind and sweeping rain.
‘For most of the back nine, we had the wind and rain into us and I had to use every skill I’ve learned in the wind to combat that three-to-four club wind,’ Filippi said.
‘After I dropped shots at 11 and 14, I must admit that I thought about losing the tournament at Fancourt last year. I learned a lot from that event. Everyone was battling in the conditions, though, so I just kept myself patient and focussed on playing hole-by-hole and not getting ahead of myself.’
Filippi reached the 18th with a three shot lead and decided to take the safest option and lay up.
‘I had 20 metres to the pin and I hit a good chip into the wind, but it pulled up short and rolled all the way back down the slope,’ he said. ‘I had to fire again, and this time I got on the green, two-putted for double bogey and still walked off the winner.
‘The three birdies early in the round definitely made a difference to my mental approach. I had some shots in hand and I just needed to play clever golf to win. I didn’t do anything fancy; I just focussed on playing regulation golf tee to green.
‘I owe a huge debt of gratitude to sport psychologist Theo Bezuidenhout and my coach Grant Hepburn, because they armed me with the mental strength to get through the rough patches and I also want to thank the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation for all the support. I don’t think anyone can appreciate just how happy I am at this moment that I’ve thrown the monkey off my back.’
Lamprecht closed with a 76 to take second on four over 148, while Bryce Leach from Central Gauteng moved into sole third at 153 after closing with a 74.
FINAL RESULT (top 10)
144 Luca Filippi (Western Province) 71 73
148 Christo Lamprecht (Southern Cape) 72 76
153 Bryce Leach (Central Gauteng) 79 74
154 Reece Haikney (Central Gauteng) 78 76; Sentanio Minnie (Ekurhuleni) 76 78; Luke Mayo KwaZulu-Natal) 74 80
155 Sebastian Terblanche (KwaZulu-Natal) 78 77
157 Dylan Mostert (Ekurhuleni) 78 79
158 Keegan Mclachlan (Gauteng North) 75 83
159 Ge-Rico Muller (Free State) 80 79; Jethro Newton (Southern Cape) 78 81
By Lali Stander
Photo credit Catherine Kotze / SASPA