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Ken Borland



We will have to wait a little longer for Schaper’s maiden pro win as Moolman pips him 0

Posted on December 21, 2022 by Ken

BENONI, Gauteng – We will have to wait a little longer for Jayden Schaper’s maiden professional win, but Pieter Moolman was a worthy winner of the Fortress Invitational at Ebotse Links on Sunday as he pipped the highly-rated former junior star in a playoff.

Moolman certainly did the hard yards for his maiden Sunshine Tour title, starting the final round three shots behind Schaper. And as he reached the final hole in regulation play, he was three-under for his round, having mixed five birdies with two bogeys, and looked like falling just short on 12-under-par as Schaper was already on 14-under-par.

But the 31-year-old Moolman hit an excellent drive and a superb approach shot on the par-five 18th to 10 feet from the hole, and nailed the eagle putt to vault to 14-under.

Schaper then bogeyed the par-four 17th but made birdie at the last to force a playoff with an excellent up-and-down after short-siding himself.

Moolman again hit a brilliant second in the playoff, finishing just off the green after being in the semi-rough on a mound. He would chip and sink a four-foot putt for birdie, while Schaper was unfortunate that his approach shot, which looked really good in the air, took a hard first bounce and ran through the green. The 21-year-old then could not quite sink a 10-footer for birdie, handing Moolman the win.

“I’ve lost a few times in these situations, but I’ve played better golf a few times than I did today,” Moolman said. “So to get over the line is really special and it shows that it does not take a perfect performance to win.

“It’s more mental, about believing you can still put a score on the board if you’re playing average golf, when your swing is not really there. I just had to stay in the moment and commit to what I was doing, take it shot-for-shot.”

Schaper will look back on a level-par back nine, which featured bogeys at the par-three 11th and the penultimate hole, as having cost him, but he showed tremendous determination and character in birdieing the last hole to get into the playoff, from which point it all becomes a bit of a lottery.

For Moolman, who like Schaper is based in Benoni and knows the Ebotse Links well, the win will give him great confidence heading into the big summer events. He has finished runner-up twice before this year, including at the Tour Championship at nearby Serengeti Estate.

“I’ve been playing solid golf for a while and I played solid enough the whole week, I was just trying to give myself opportunities, keep the ball in play and give myself a chance,” Moolman said.

“Finishing second at the Wild Coast a few weeks back, I made some mistakes down the back nine, but I learnt from that and how to stay strong.

“Now that I’ve won, you start believing you can win again and that you belong here. I’m looking forward to the summer events,” Moolman said.

Although he finished fourth, two shots off the pace, Sean Bradley will remember the final round for a long time as he began with a double-bogey at the first hole, but then made a hole-in-one at the par-three eighth. He then rounded off his round with a massive eagle putt, from off the green, on the last hole, finishing with a 63 that put him right into contention.

American Dan Erickson claimed third place on 13-under, signing for a 67 after he could only make par on the last three holes.

Schaper goes three ahead, but Mazibuko building strong challenge 0

Posted on December 19, 2022 by Ken

BENONI, Gauteng – Jayden Schaper enjoyed a three-shot lead, but Makhetha Mazibuko was building a strong challenge, when dangerous weather caused the second round of the Fortress Invitational at Ebotse Links to be suspended on Saturday afternoon.

Schaper, who was in a three-way tie for the lead after a first-round 65, separated himself on Saturday with another fine round, a five-under-par 67 lifting him to 12-under for the tournament, going into Sunday’s final round.

Two birdies and a bogey on the front nine saw Schaper reach the turn just one-under, but he blossomed on the back nine with four birdies to pull away from the field.

“I had a steady start, I was hitting the ball well and I just left a couple of putts in the jaws of the hole. But I just stayed patient and it was pretty much another solid all-round game. It was more difficult today, the wind was up and that makes the course a lot tougher,” Schaper said.

But Mazibuko is on nine-under-par, tied in second place with Richard Joubert (69), and he still has six holes to play when the second round resumes at 7am on Sunday.

The 34-year-old from Bloemfontein Golf Club is three-under for his round, all three birdies coming on the front nine.

Schaper will be chasing his first Sunshine Tour title on Sunday, with the final round being played to a two-tee, three-ball format. The 21-year-old enjoyed a prolific amateur career and it will be remembered that he was touted as South African golf’s next big thing when he finished second in the 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

“I guess there will be some added pressure, but I’ll be saying to myself that there is no difference between a Sunshine Tour event or an amateur tournament. It’s the same as any round of golf.

“Playing at my home course at Ebotse will also keep me calm because I know the course well. I’m looking forward to it, I’m going to enjoy it and if it’s my day then I’ll take it,” Schaper said.

The other first-round leaders went backwards on the second day, with Ockie Strydom shooting a level-par 72 and staying on seven-under, which is now in a tie for fifth, while Clinton Grobler is four-over-par through 12 holes, having double-bogeyed his last two holes to be nine shots off the pace.

Excellent day for Schaper as all aspects of his game come through for him 0

Posted on December 19, 2022 by Ken

BENONI, Gauteng – Jayden Schaper enjoyed an excellent day on his home course of Ebotse Links as all aspects of his game came through for him in a seven-under-par 65 that gave him a share of the lead with Clinton Grobler and Ockie Strydom after the first round of the Fortress Invitational on Friday.

The highly-promising Schaper began his round on the 10th hole with a birdie, and followed that up with consecutive gains on the 12th and 13th holes. A marvellous outgoing nine holes was capped by birdies at the par-three 15th and par-five 18th, seeing him go to the turn in just 31 strokes.

Schaper picked up three more birdies in four holes from the fourth, and even a bogey at the par-three eighth could not put a damper on a superb round of golf.

“Playing on my home course is a bit of an advantage because I know where certain pins are, where to miss and which bunkers to avoid,” Schaper said after his best round of the Sunshine Tour season so far.

“But you’ve still got to hit the ball well, hit the shots and make the putts. In the last couple of weeks, my tee-to-green play has been solid and I’ve been slowly getting better on the greens too.

“Today I just played really solid golf, I made good decisions and hit some really good shots. I was consistent today,” Schaper said.

The return of long-time coach Grant Veenstra from the United States may also have played a role in the impressive showing, with Schaper saying “it was the first week I’ve seen him in the last couple of months and it was really good to have him back to help out.”

Grobler, the 28-year-old Krugersdorp golfer, also started on the 10th and began the round with three straight birdies, while bogeying the 17th and fourth holes on the way to his 65. The highlight of his round was his eagle-three on the 18th.

The in-form Strydom, from the nearby Serengeti Estate, cruised through the front nine in four-under-par, but then the rollercoaster began: The 37-year-old bogeyed the par-four 10th, then grabbed a hat-trick of birdies from the 12th, dropped a shot at 17, but then finished spectacularly with an eagle on the last hole to vault into a share of the lead.

The leaderboard is congested, with five golfers shooting 66, including the veteran Hennie Otto, the American Dan Erickson, the amateur Kyle de Beer, as well as Makhetha Mazibuko and Richard Joubert.

Wynand Dingle, the winner of the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series San Lameer event three weeks ago, is in the group on five-under-par.

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