Redemption for reigning Nomads SA U-19 Boys Stroke Play champion Dylan Naidoo. Experience for Karabo Mokoena and James du Preez. A chance at more success for Joburg Junior Open champion Marco Steyn.
They may have different expectations for the R16.5-million Joburg Open, but all four Golf RSA National Squad amateurs who will join a world-class field on Thursday at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club share one goal.
“I just want to make the cut,” said 17-year-old Naidoo, whose statement was instantly echoed by Steyn, Mokoena and Du Preez.
Last year Naidoo opened with a two under 70 at the West Course and followed with 70 at the East Course, but he missed the cut by one agonising shot.
“After the first round, I searched for my name at the bottom of the leaderboard, because that’s where you usually find the amateurs,” the Modderfontein golfer said.
“I couldn’t believe that I was lying midway in a field with more than 200 pros. It was a huge relief that I didn’t disgrace myself, but I was absolutely gutted when I missed the cut. To come so close and fail was horrible.
“I feel I’ve been given a chance to redeem myself and I just want to make the most of it this year.”
At the end of November, fellow TuksSport Golf Academy player Steyn held a seven shot lead in the Central Gauteng Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington, but let a chance at victory slip.
The 18-year-old redeemed himself at the Joburg Junior Open two weeks later to end the season on a high note and claimed the inaugural Leopard Trophy at Leopard Creek on Monday in his first start this season.
“I was a little worried that I would be rusty after the holidays, but my game is definitely in great shape and hopefully the purple patch continues this week,” Steyn said.
“The East Course is definitely my favourite, but both courses set up well for my game. I just want to I just want to put two solid rounds together and make the most of this opportunity.”
Mokoena and Du Preez also aim to take full advantage of the chance to rub shoulders with South Africa’s brightest prospects in the Sunshine and European Tour co-sanctioned event.
“I’ve barely slept since I received the invitation,” said Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member Mokoena.
“This is so exciting. It’s unreal to think that I’ll be playing in the same tournament as Ernie, George Coetzee, Richard Sterne, Trevor Immelman, David Howell and Jaco van Zyl. I am really looking forward to this experience; it’s an unbelievable learning opportunity.”
Du Preez, the tallest man in the field at six foot eight, is equally excited.
“We went to the first tee to take photos and who should we run into but Brandon Stone,” he said.
“Four years ago Pebbles was one of us and now he is the South African champion. He has really inspired all of us and we are going to step up this week.”
Naidoo had some words of wisdom for his fellow amateurs.
“I walked around the clubhouse with my mouth wide open on the practice day,” he said.
“The facilities, the putting green, the driving range – everything was so smart with all the branding and it was both intimidating and exciting. It really felt like I had arrived.
“The key is to investigate everything and take it all in before your first shot. You can’t afford to be distracted by anything once you start the tournament.”