LALI STANDER: SA turning into a conveyor belt of top golfers
Golfers competing at the highest level of the game don’t win because they get lucky.
While a bit of luck never hurts, for the most part their victories are down to skill, precision, good decision-making, courage, intensity and determination. They need choppy intolerance, a bulletproof vest of self-belief and a fine measure of selfishness to tie together the package.
Most golfers have some of those qualities, but it is the winners who come up with the whole nine yards and most importantly, what they have learnt to do to hang on when things aren’t going exactly according to plan.
At 17 years of age, Aldrich Potgieter has already become such a player.
When he was eight, the SA-born young gun emigrated with his family to Australia, where he honed his game for the past nine years. During this time, he rose to sixth in the Golf Australia junior rankings and was West Australia’s No 1 ranked junior. Before his return to SA in December 2021, Potgieter won the Western Australia Amateur and finished runner-up in the Australian Amateur.
Shortly after the family settled in Mossel Bay, he joined the Louis Oosthuizen Junior Golf Academy stable and quickly began asserting his dominance in the Southern Cape Golf Union events, winning in two of his three starts.
He announced himself on the GolfRSA national circuit with a tie for third in the African Amateur in February and in his first national junior start in March, he beat a strong field for the Nomads Junior International title.
Then last week — in just his fourth start on the national GolfRSA circuit — Potgieter wrote his name in the SA golf history books as just the fifth junior to achieve the rare double in the Nomads SA boys’ under-19 championship, following Richard Sterne (1999), Dylan Frittelli (2008), Zander Gous (2013) and Jayden Schaper (2015).
But it was the manner in which Potgieter etched his name alongside those of Major champion Charl Schwartzel and PGA Tour winners Frittelli and Brandon Stone in the 72-hole stroke play championship that was truly remarkable.
As rain and wind lashed the field at Royal Cape Golf Club over three days, Potgieter fired 26 birdies and dropped only four shots as he rewrote the record books with a stunning 20-shot victory — the highest winning margin recorded since the event began in 1963.
To put this performance in context, only three players finished under par as he blew the field away with a score of 22 under par.
Then he played his way into the 36-hole final, where he comfortably routed Randpark golfer Johan Bredenkamp 8 & 7 to lift the Match Play title.
Potgieter shot to the No 1 spot in the GolfRSA junior rankings and in just three months, boosted his chances to make the International Team for the 2022 Junior Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow.
Another golfer who exudes the qualities of a world beater is Casey Jarvis, who continues to rise to the occasion.
The 18-year-old GolfRSA national squad member has been rewriting the history books since the age of 12, when he became the first international winner and youngest champion of the English boys’ under-14 Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship title with a wire-to-wire performance at Manchester Golf Club.
At 16 years, six months and 17 days he broke a 51-year record held by Dale Hayes to become the youngest winner of the SA Stroke Play Championship in 2020, and a week later only the eighth amateur to achieve the rare SA Amateur double when he ended the run of Scotland’s James Wilson with a comfortable 7 & 6 victory on Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s East Course to lift the match play title.
Jarvis capped the 2020 season with another record-setting performance as the leading amateur in the SA Open at Sun City, becoming only the second amateur to win the SA Stroke Play, SA Match Play and Freddie Tait Cup in a calendar year since Neville Clark first achieved this feat in 1988.
In 2021 Jarvis was the first amateur to complete the GolfRSA SA Swing Triple Crown with his runaway victory in the African Amateur at Glendower, and he was unstoppable in his title defence this year, winning by four shots at Leopard Creek.
Other amateurs who have impressed during the first quarter of the year are GolfRSA national squad members Kiera Floyd, Bobbi Brown and Kyle de Beer.
Floyd rose to third in the GolfRSA senior rankings in 2019, but she went off the boil as she struggled with swing changes in 2020. Making a welcome return to the winner’s circle with three provincial wins in 2021, the 17-year-old Serengeti golfer started the year with a bang, lifting the SA Women’s Amateur Stroke Play title in February. Last week she teed it up in the Investec SA Women’s Open, where she held her own in challenging conditions at Steenberg to tie for 26th against a top international field of professionals.
Brown has come into her own since her national breakthrough in the Nomads SA Girls Championship in September last year. The 18-year-old Steenberg golfer racked up five top three finishes, including second in the SA Women’s Amateur Stroke Play, before she led the GolfRSA Junior Proteas to victory in the All-Africa Junior Championship in Egypt, where she won the Individual Competition by four shots.
De Beer backed up his SA Amateur victory in February with two imposing performances on the US amateur circuit, finishing third in the Florida Azalea Amateur and claiming the runner-up spot in the Azalea Invitational last week.
The SA conveyor belt of top golfers continues to deliver and one suspects we won’t have to wait for too long until we see these stars-in-waiting competing at the highest level professionally.
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