Ebotse’s Jayden Schaper produced two moments of brilliance on the 18th hole to savour a play-off victory in the Nomads National Order of Merit at Modderfontein Golf Club on Tuesday.
Cole Stevens held the outright lead at three under through 15 holes, but the Parkview junior followed a bogey at 16 with a double bogey at 17 and set the clubhouse target at even-par 144 with a final round 73. Dylan Mostert got to two under through 15, but successive bogeys at 16 and 17 saw the State Mines junior close with a 70 to join Cole in pole position.
Meanwhile Schaper was fighting for survival.
The reigning Nomads SA Boys U-15 champion began the final round with a two-shot advantage, but looked certain to heading out in disappointment after he bogeyed 15 and 17. However, the 15-year-old old hit a perfect tee shot down the middle of the 18th fairway and a superb approach into the green that left him with a clutch putt to force a tie with Mostert and Stevens.
“And then I had to do it all over again,” joked a relieved Schaper after he signed for a 77. “Walking to 18, I knew I still had a slim chance. The tee shot was pure and the approach was one of those once in a lifetime shots. And I made very sure of the line and pace on the birdie putt.”
The trio returned to the 18th tee for another trip down the closing par four.
“Dylan hit five -iron down the middle of the fairway, I followed him with a four-iron, but Cole pulled his three-wood left into the trees,” Schaper explained.
“Cole laid up in front of the water with his second. Dylan hit his second on the right edge of the green and my approach finished 20 feet behind the pin. Cole’s third shot spun about a foot past my ball.
“Dylan’s chip came out too soft and he still had 15 feet left to save par and Cole’s putt for par shaved the hole. I lagged my putt an inch short of the hole and after Dylan missed his par-save, all I had to do was tap-in for win.”
Schaper came into this week with good form following a seventh place finish in the Dimension Data Junior Open a week ago and a tie for sixth in the Nomads SA Boys U-17 Championship last Friday.
“I was really excited after taking the lead in round one, but I’ve never had to work harder to win something,” said the Grant Veenstra Golf Academy player.
“Yes, I’m relieved that I was able to pull it through, but I made a few mistakes. I hope I can put the lessons to good use in the Tshwane Junior Open next week. I had a few unlucky breaks and putts that didn’t drop in the final round, but to be honest, my focus wasn’t on the golf.
“I worried too much about protecting my lead and I let my mind wander. I got ahead of myself and lost focus. I stayed in the moment in the playoff and that’s what pulled it through. I never expected to make the playoff, but the way I won showed me that I need to keep my head in the game. I fought hard and I feel very positive that this experience will help me to win again in the future.”
144 Jayden Schaper 67 77 (1st hole play-off)
144 Dylan Mostert 74 70; Cole Stevens 71 73
147 Slade Pickering 76 71; Keegan Mclachlan 74 73; Brendan Porter 69 78; Wilco Nienaber 69 78
149 Christiaan Burke 74 75; Deon Germishuys 74 75
150 Luke Brown 76 74; Chris Woollam 73 77
By Lali Stander