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SA juniors relish Junior PLAYERS experience

04 Sep 2017

Christo Lamprecht, Garrick Higgo, Wilco Nienaber and Jayden Schaper; credit Ryan Schaper

Christo Lamprecht from Southern Cape led the South African challenge in the Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf with a top 20 finish on Sunday, but irrespective of where they finished, all five juniors savoured the opportunity to compete in this highly-rated international event.

The lanky Lamprecht from George compiled a two-over-par total of 218 at the magnificent TPC Sawgrass to tie for 19th alongside four American juniors.

Lamprecht opened with a three over 75 to tie for 35th with compatriot Wilco Nienaber. He moved to joint 30th with an even-par 72 in the second round and in the final round, the reigning Sanlam SA Amateur champion countered a double bogey at the par four sixth and another drop at the par three eighth with birdies at nine, 11, 12 and 15 to close with a 71.

For Lamprecht, Garrick Higgo from Boland and Luca Filippi from the Western Province, the Junior Players Championship presented the chance to compete in a world-class event ahead of their collective debut in the inaugural Junior Presidents Cup from 25-26 September.

For South African’s top ranked junior Jayden Schaper from Ekurhuleni and compatriots Wilco Nienaber from Free State, the highly-rated American Junior Golf Association tournament was the last event offering points to secure the final spot available on the International Team.

Schaper, who carded rounds of 76, 70 and 73 to tie for 24th on three over 219, had no regrets travelling to the United States irrespective of the outcome.

“My favourite experience from the Junior Players was playing TPC Sawgrass,” said Schaper. “It was really an unbelievable experience to play at a golf course that you’ve watched Major winners and PGA Tour players compete on the big events.

“It was also great to get a little taste of being a touring pro, with the TaylorMade Tour truck there for our use and us being given lockers in the same change room that the tour players use.”

Higgo returned rounds of 76, 75 and 72 to tie for 37th on 223, while Nienaber ended in a tie for 45th o on 226 after a 76 in round two and 75 in the final round.

“I wasn’t striking the ball as well as I have been this season, so I was understandably frustrated with the way I scored, but it was really was a once in a life-time experience,” said Nienaber.

“From the moment we arrived for our practice rounds, we were treated like pros. We were given lockers with our names on, we received some small gifts and even the clothing and shoes we received was a huge treat.

“Things don’t always go your way and golf is a cycle of ups and downs, but I don’t regret the chance I had to play in this top tournament at one of the most amazing courses I’ve ever played. It was so worth the trip and I’m really grateful to everyone who gave me this unforgettable opportunity.”

Filippi had the worst possible start with an 82 that featured a double bogey at six, a triple at the 18th and six bogeys to tie for 72nd, but true to his nature, the Milnerton golfer doubled down and rallied with a 74 in the second round to move to 67th. A final round 72 moved him to joint 54th on 228.

“The Junior PLAYERS was a really great experience for me personally,” Filippi said. “It was another eye opener on how high the standard of golf is all around the world. We got to experience exactly the same as the pros do in this tournament. I gave me goose bumps walking through the Hall of Fame and the champions lockers.

“My first round was a disaster, but otherwise it wasn't too bad; I just made some silly decisions. I just want to thanks GolfRSA and the South African Golf Association for the opportunity and especially for what I personally gained from playing in the tournament.”

While Lamprecht, Higgo and Filippi heading to New Jersey, Schaper will have a nervy wait to see if he did enough to snag the final spot to join his All-Africa Junior Golf Championship and Junior Golf World Cup team-mates at Plainfield Country Club in three weeks.

The final players for the International and U.S. Teams will be announced on Wednesday.

Shuai Ming Wong from Hong Kong defeated Oklahoma City’s Logan McAllister and Jake Beber-Frankel from Miami at the third play-off hole to lift the title.

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