MALELANE, 11 January 2016 – Having watched every one of Charl Schwartzel’s conquests in the Alfred Dunhill Championship, Marco Steyn was over the moon to receive his own unique leopard trophy after emulating the Masters champion with a winning performance at Leopard Creek Country Club on Monday.
Steyn was among a cast of 23 leading junior golfers in South Africa to compete in the inaugural Leopard Trophy and the experience was one he would treasure for a very long time.
“When you watch Charl play this course, he makes it look so easy,” Steyn said.
“It’s only when you stand on most of the tee boxes here that you realise just how tight this layout is. If you hit it anywhere but in the fairways or on the greens, you are fighting for survival.”
In December, the 17-year-old Modderfontein golfer won the final event of the 2015 season – the Joburg Junior Open – by three strokes from Matt Saulez from KwaZulu-Natal. In an ironic twist of fate, Steyn denied Saulez by three strokes again and triumphed on six-under-par 138.
“It’s pretty cool to start your season the way you ended the previous season, but this is definitely one of the best achievements of my career,” Steyn said.
He started the final round four shots off the pace in a tie for second on two under 70 with fellow TuksGolf Academies player Dylan Naidoo, who also kicked off his season with a podium finish in the Nomads Dr Bam at Benoni Country Club last week.
“I was really pleased to start with a birdie,” Steyn said. “I made four solid pars and picked up another birdie at six, but you quickly give shots back if you miss fairways or greens.
“At seven I missed the green right, hit a poor chip and ran my putt for par past the flag. I missed the green right at eight, as well, fluffed the chip and walked off with another bogey.”
Steyn holed a great 20-footer for birdie at the par-four ninth to diminish the damage and back-to-back birdies after the turn boosted his spirits.
“I boxed a four-footer for birdie at 10 and made a birdie after a great four-iron approach from 230 meters at 11,” he said. “That gave my round some momentum again.”
After a birdie at 15, he three-putted for bogey at the par-three 16th but birdied 17 and parred the magnificent closing hole for the victory.
“I came to Leopard Creek on a golf tour with St. John’s College when I was 14 and this was one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever seen,” Steyn said.
“I think the course has really improved over the years. I don’t think any of us expected to find it in such great condition after the heat wave of the past few weeks. The rough is up, the bush is thick and the greens were unbelievable.
“We all felt really privileged to play here. It’s not a counting event so I couldn’t close the gap on Ross Sinclair in the rankings, but I am nevertheless thrilled that I can tell everyone that I got my Leopard Trophy at the same place Charl Schwartzel got his!”
138 Marco Steyn 70 68
141 Matt Saulez 71 70
143 Luke Mayo 73 70; Steven le Roux 66 77
144 Kyle McClatchie 73 71
145 Werner Deyzel 71 74
146 Dylan Naidoo 70 76
150 Franklin Manchest 81 69; Dylan Mostert 71 79
151 Jovan Rebula 72 79; Hilmi Mallick 71 80
152 Sentanio Minnie 71 81
153 Estiaan Conradie 73 80
154 Hayden Garcia 80 74; Rosswell Sinclair 75 79
156 Martin Vorster 80 76; Wilco Nienaber 76 80
157 Jordan Duminy 78 79; Keelan van Wyk 74 83
159 Juan-Pierre Cooper 79 80
161 Dawid Opperman 78 83
162 Kyle Barker 77 85
168 Kyle De Beer 80 88
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association.