George golfer Jovan Rebula was the lone South African starter in the quarter-finals of the 123rd Amateur Championship in Aberdeen, Scotland on Friday after Wilco Nienaber and Luca Filippi were eliminated in round four.
Rebula defeated fellow GolfRSA National Squad player Malcolm Mitchell 1 up in the third round to progress to the top 16 and defeated Ben Hutchinson from England at the last hole to reach the top eight.
The South African had a double-bogey at the par-five 2nd, but the match was back to all-square after Hutchinson dropped at the 4th.
Hutchinson won the par-five 6th with an eagle and Rebula trailed until the 15th hole. Hutchinson’s bogey at the par four levelled the game and the Rebula went 1 up with a par at the 17th.
‘We both had long putts for par on 18th,’ said the Auburn University student. ‘I lagged mine very close and that put pressure on him to hole his putt. When he missed, I had a tap-in to win the match.
‘The weather conditions were crazy tough. It blew really hard in the morning and even worse in the afternoon. It was definitely a testing day.’
The 20-year-old Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member said the match against Mitchell was the tougher of the two.
‘Malcolm is a really good friend and we got a good game going, but it was difficult to keep focused in the match,’ said Rebula. ‘It was extremely tight and I feel very fortunate that I won. I had Matt [Saulez] on the bag and I owe him for keeping me in the moment.
‘I’m very happy to be in the semi-finals and excited about the rest of the week. I’m feeling very positive and I’ll have Matt, my lucky charm, with me every step of the way.’
Rebula might have a little revenge on the mind when he faces Tom Sloman in the quarter-finals.
The Englishman eliminated Nienaber, who had great hopes of winning the title after he became the first South African to win the strokeplay qualifier since qualifying was introduced in 1983.
Nienaber had control for the first six holes after Sloman made a bogey start, but the lead changed hands a few times after South Africa’s leading amateur had a triple-bogey at the par-four 7th. After the Englishman dropped at the 9th, the pair halved the next three holes.
Nienaber edged in front with a birdie at the 13th, but Sloman responded with a birdie at the 14th to square the match. They headed down the 18th all-square after Nienaber bogeyed the 16th and Sloman dropped on the 17th.
‘I had the chance to force the match to the 19th hole with par at the last, but the putt slipped past the hole,’ said Nienaber. ‘I’m obviously disappointed, but that’s matchplay. Sometimes the putts drop, sometimes they don’t.
‘Ben played great golf and it was a great contest. I had a fantastic time here at Royal Aberdeen, though, and I’m going home with a lot of positives and special memories and no regrets. Now we’re all getting behind Jovan.’
Filippi saw off fellow Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member Therion Nel 4 & 3 in the third round, but lost by the same margin to Christoffer Palsson. The Swede went 5 up with back-to-back birdies at the 12th and 13th and celebrated victory when the pair halved on the 15th.
‘Today was tough from start to finish and I was disappointed with the outcome, but the last two weeks have been absolutely amazing,’ said the 19-year-old Western Province golfer. ‘I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to play some great courses and I know I speak for the entire squad when I say that we are extremely privileged to have the backing of Mr Rupert, who made this tour a reality.
‘Now it’s down to Jovan to try and put a South African in the final, and we’re pulling for him to go all the way.’
Recent St Andrews Links Trophy champion John Murphy routed world No 5 Victor Hovland from Norway 6 & 5 and will face fellow Irishman Robin Dawson in the top eight, while Englishman Mitch Waite faces Palsson and David Micheluzzi from Australia tackles Conor Purcell from Ireland.
Photo: South Africa’s Jovan Rebula started the quarter-finals of the 123rd Amateur Championship with lucky charm Matt Saulez on the bag at Royal Aberdeen, by GolfRSA