The South African golf factory keeps on producing top quality players and, in Jayden Schaper, Mzansi may just have found another future Major winner, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
Apparently Jayden Schaper has a few nicknames. Veteran golf writers Grant Winter and Lali Stander say he earned the moniker ‘Clutch’ when he won the Junior Players Championships last year, while members of the media covering the SA Open in Johannesburg this week have also baptised him ‘Shaper’ – after showcasing his ability to shape the golf ball in both the directions during the first two rounds of South Africa’s national open.
I’m going to dub the 18-year-old kid ‘Maverick’, as in Tom Cruise’s character in the movie Top Gun, because South Africa’s leading amateur golfer looks like he is fearless on the golf course and has absolutely no qualms about attacking a difficult pin or a tight fairway.
But he is definitely not reckless or someone who acts like he has a chip on his shoulder.
He just looks like a kid who believes in his ability and backs himself to do the business. That, ladies and gentlemen, you can’t coach. It comes from a place where Major winners are born. It’s confidence, not arrogance.
Schaper, SA’s No 1-ranked amateur since March 2019, is the first junior in South African golfing history to achieve the ‘grand slam’ of Nomads SA Boys titles, winning the U13, U15 and U17 tournaments and the elusive double at the Nomads SA Boys U19 Championship as a 16-year-old at Langebaan Golf Club in 2017.
Over the last couple of days at the SA Open, Schaper hasn’t looked out of place either among the some of the best golfers on the European Tour. He played with compatriot Louis Oosthuizen in the first two rounds of the SA Open, and outscored the 2010 Open Championship winner by two shots. In fact, he will head out in the final group on Saturday after completing the first two rounds in 10 under par.
On Friday he blitzed the second nine of Randpark’s infamous Firethorn course with a 31. He made two bogeys on Nos 7 and 8, before making five birdies on the back nine. He even outdrove Uncle Louis a few times during their round!
‘After the drop shots you don’t want to see yourself in that position, especially when the cuts at these competitions can be so low. I just said to myself to not look at the bottom or the cut and rather look at the guys in front of me and start chasing them. Luckily I got the putter to start working and the puts started to drop,’ Schaper said after the second round.
Schaper definitely has what it takes to become a top pro. In fact, he could easily win a Major over the next 10 years if he keeps on developing his game and continues to exude that mental toughness.
I’m not sure which nickname will stick when he turns pro, but I’m sure we will hear it mentioned a lot in future.
Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images