Nienaber wins at Woodmead… his 10th victory of the season | TeamSA - TeamSA
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Nienaber wins at Woodmead… his 10th victory of the season

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Free State junior Wilco Nienaber capped a dream season with his 10th victory when he went wire-to-wire in the Central Gauteng Open at Country Club Johannesburg at the Woodmead Course to triumph on 19-under-par 296 on Sunday.

The 17-year-old Bloemfontein junior laid the foundation with a brilliant eight-under-par 64 in the opening round. He carried the momentum to successive rounds of 69 and headed into the final round with a three stroke lead.

Nienaber stretched his advantage with five birdies and knocked in a three-footer for a closing birdie to turn in a 67 to thunder to an eight-stroke victory over Matt Saulez from KwaZulu-Natal.

South Africa’s top-ranked junior Jayden Schaper from Ekurhuleni took third on 10 under, while Garrick Higgo from Boland – the country’s top amateur and last week’s Bobby Locke winner – wrapped up a share of fourth on nine-under 279 with David McIntyre from Central Gauteng.

Nienaber was excited to end the season on a high note.

‘I’m in the middle of exams, so I couldn’t play The Bobby Locke last week or the Harry Oppenheimer Trophy next week,’ said the Grade 11 Grey College scholar. ‘The Central Gauteng Open was my last tournament and to finish the season like this is dream come true.

‘My ball striking was fantastic and I gave myself a lot of chances, but it wasn’t my best week with the short stick. The putter showed up in the first round, but I battled to get the ball in the hole in the last three rounds. I missed a lot of close-range putts.

‘My goal was to get to 20-under and I nearly did it. I had a seven metre putt for eagle at the last hole, but the ball just peeked into the hole and kept going. I’m incredibly happy with the result, though. It was really great to share it with my dad, who was on the bag.

‘I want to thank my parents, who are my biggest fans. And my coach Quintin Williams, who is always there for me. Also, thank you to GolfRSA and the South African Golf Association for all the opportunities they’ve given me this year. And a big thank you to Dean Burmester, who gave me some awesome pitching tips when he let me play with his TrackMan.’

It certainly has been a banner season for the GolfRSA National Squad player.

Nienaber set himself a rather stiff target for 2017 – five national victories, top 10 on the Open Amateur rankings, Under-19 national colours and flying the flag for South Africa abroad.

He kicked off the winning streak in the Nomads Inland National Order of Merit at Benoni Country Club in January and backed it up with a Global Junior Golf Tour double with victories in the Curro SA Juniors International and the RB German Junior Masters. Two more Nomads Junior titles and the Sun International Africa Junior Open followed the Northern Cape Open on the Open Amateur circuit.

Nienaber donned the green and gold for the first time in August to play for the South African junior national side against India in the Fellowship at Leopard Creek.

He also picked up the individual title in the SA High Schools Championship in August and won the Liberty GNGU Silver Salver, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, for his second Open Amateur title this season.

Nienaber shot to second in the South African Golf Association (SAGA) Junior standings and the Central Gauteng Open victory will see him rise to sixth in the Open Amateur Rankings, but he has more title aspirations.

‘Hopefully I can keep this winning streak in the United States in December,’ he said. ‘I’ll be playing in Greg Norman Academy Junior Invitational at the Barefoot Resort and Golf in Myrtle Beach and the South Beach International Amateur in Miami Beach, also in Florida.

‘It’s really amazing when you look back at your goals and you realise that you’ve ticked everything on the list and more. I owe GolfRSA and SAGA a huge thanks for helping me to compete in the Junior Players Championship.

‘It was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life and I feel confident heading back to the States and to gain more experience before I set my goals for 2018.’

Picture of Nienaber courtesy of GolfRSA.


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