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KeNako SA World Juniors 2013 a Huge Success

The KeNako SA World Juniors came to an exciting end on Thursday, first on the golf course and then at the final Prize Giving Dinner. The final day provided the most player friendly weather conditions of the week, with overcast conditions and a mild breeze helping to ensure that the boys and girls had every opportunity of producing their best golf. As things turned out, both the Boy’s and Girl’s Divisions produced nail-biting finishes.

Play-off Decides Boy’s Winner

In the Boys Division, 14 players had started the final round within 4 shots of the lead and it was not long before the leaderboard started to change complexion. First it was young HP van der Merwe, an emerging talent from Boland in South Africa, who took the lead. Then Jade Buitendag, who had started the day a single shot behind the leaders at 2 under par made his move and by the time that he reached the 16th hole, he was 5 under par for his round and 7 under par for the tournament, 2 shots clear of Robert Burlison of England who had been tied with Buitendag at the start of play. The 16th hole created some drama. After bunkering his drive, Buitendag had to wedge himself out of the very penal Kingswood bunkers and was left with a long shot into the green, which he missed. He then failed to get up and down and carded a bogey 6. His playing partner Burlison seized the moment and made a birdie 4, leaving the boys tied at 6 under par with 2 holes to play. HP van der Merwe, playing in the final group, also birdied hole 16 which left him only one shot behind the leaders. Both Buitendag and Burlison parred the 17th hole, Burlison after playing a brilliant chip shot down a slope onto a very quick green, while van der Merwe hit a great pitch to about 15 foot on the 17th but missed the putt to tie the lead. Buitendag and Burlison then both parred the 18th hole, while van der Merwe, who had enjoyed some luck when his second shot to the 18th green was too strong but hit the TV cameraman behind the green which stopped his ball, then took 3 shots to get down, leaving Buitendag and Burlison to play-off for the 2013 title.

The designated play-off hole was the par 5 10th hole, a hole almost designed with a play-off in mind! It is a very reachable par 5, but it is at the same time a dangerous hole. Burlison played safe, hitting his 3 wood short of the deep fairway bunkers. It seemed like a good decision when Buitendag drove his ball into one of the very deep fairway bunkers. It seemed as if Burlison was in control of the play-off, since Buitendag had no choice other than to splash his ball out of the bunker. Burlison then cut his second shot with an iron into the water on the right side of the green, changing the entire complexion of the play-off. Buitendag was able to splash out of the bunker and then play a safe 3rd shot onto the green, while Burlison had to take a penalty drop short of the water, leaving a tricky pitch to a pin hard up against the water on the right side of the green. Again he missed the green to the right but fortunately his ball trickled doen the bank and stopped just short of the hazard. He then hit an average chip but sunk a long putt to make a one over par 6, forcing Buitendag to 2 putt to win the title.

There were other outstanding rounds played in the afternoon, none more critical than that played by Jason Froneman, who was paired with Buitendag in the Team competition. Froneman played an excellent final round of 68 which allowed their South African team to come from 5 shots behind Australia with one round to play and win by 6 shots. The Australians scored a combined 147 in the final round compared to the combined 136 strokes of the South Africans. Other impressive final rounds included Robert Bougas from Strand Golf Club in the Western Province who scored a 6 under par 66 to move up to a tie for 10th place, whilst Philip Kruse also from South Africa scored a 67 to finish in a tie for 3rd, a position he shared with Ben Follet-Smith from Zimbabwe and HP van der Merwe from South Africa, who both closed with 1 under par rounds of 71.

Weinstein Becomes First Player to Successfully Defend Her Title

Lara Weinstein had entered the final round with a commanding 5 shot lead and looked headed for a comfortable victory. Things didn’t quite work out as expected and Lara would later admit during her television interview that after faltering she felt under extreme pressure and had to gather herself to ensure victory. When Lara’s South African compatriot Cara Gorlei birdied the 16th hole the two girls were tied for the lead at level par. Gorlei then drove into one of the very penal fairway bunkers on the 17th hole which resulted in a dropped shot. Weinstein steadied herself and made a solid par to move back into a 1 shot lead. Both girls then parred the 18th hole to leave Weinstein the winner by just one shot, a scenario that had looked most unlikely at the start of the day.

South Africa’s Bianca Theron shot an excellent 71 in her final round to move up into a tie for 3rd with Ji Sun Kang from South Korea who closed with a 74. These girls were 6 shots behind the winner. The 2012 WJGS number one player Czilla Lajtai Rózsa finished with a 77 to drop into a tie for 5th place with Kaleigh Telfer of South Africa.

KeNako SA World Juniors secured for another 3 Years

At the official Prize Giving Dinner held at the King George Protea Hotel Golf Village, Ron Boon, Chairman of the KeNako Academy, announced that KeNako Academy has signed a new 3 year contract with the World Junior Golf Series (WJGS), so extending the KeNako SA World Juniors tournament to 2016. Boon spoke about the impact of the tournament on junior golf in South Africa and KeNako’s desire to help take away the elitist tag associated with golf in South Africa. Boon said “KeNako Academy was set up to be the Benchmark for golf academies worldwide. KeNako has made excellent progress in achieving this objective since launch and the academy is enjoying remarkable success with its students. The KeNako Academy has to date received no sponsorship and no financial assistance from any company or organisation. KeNako decided to establish a Not-for-Profit Company that will allow the academy to foster and develop selected young talents who are unable to afford the annual KeNako Academy fees but who have been enrolled at KeNako Academy. KeNako makes a difference in their lives, not only improving their golf but in providing better education, better nutrition, physical and mental training programs that they would otherwise not be exposed to and even special eye training.”

Boon reminded the audience what Tom Burnett, Vice-President of the WJGS had said at the Opening Banquet on Monday night: “there is not an academy in the USA that offers anything like the KeNako Academy offering!” It is wonderful that South Africa now has a truly world class academy facility with a team of expert professionals, an academy that can and will make a difference. Much of the work that KeNako is managing to do is in line with the Mission and Vision of the World Junior Golf Foundation.

Arnold Geerdts of SuperSport was MC for the night and expressed his appreciation for the quality of the tournament. The KeNako SA World Juniors has received extensive media coverage not just in South Africa but in many countries of the world. Tournament Director Erica Lefson thanked the WJGS for their contribution in helping to make the KeNako SA World Juniors the huge success that the tournament has become and for their commitment to junior golf around the world.

The KeNako SA World Juniors was a first time visit to South Africa for many players, families, managers and coaches. They enjoyed a wonderful week and were all very complimentary about the high quality of the tournament, which was an amazing success. It seems likely that many of the visitors will be returning to South Africa to explore the country whilst there are some country squads and players who wish to work together with the KeNako Academy in the coming years.