CAPE TOWN, 26 April 2016 – Two victories in his last three starts has rocketed former top-ranked junior Jovan Rebula from George to the number two spot in the South African Golf Association Open Amateur rankings.
Lali Stander – Rebula broke back into the upper echelons of amateur golf when he defeated Luca Filippi for the Western Province Amateur Championship title at Clovelly Country Club on Saturday and two days later, the 18-year-old Southern Cape golfer is sitting pretty in the top five at the Boland Stroke Play and he is still smiling.
Speaking from Robertson Golf Club, where he opened with an even-par 72 to finish five shots behind first round pacesetter, Aubrey Beckley, Rebula said it’s hard not to smile.
“It’s been a long while since I featured in the top five and it’s just such a good feeling to be back there,” he admitted. “You know, you come from dominating in the junior ranks to the Open Amateur circuit and it’s a bit of a shock because you to have to start at the bottom again. That’s one of the biggest lessons in golf. You have to pay your dues to get to the top. It’s part of the process and you just have to play your way through it.”
Apart from a runner-up finish in the Gauteng North Open and reaching the final of the Sanlam SA Amateur Championship, Rebula’s 2015 season was pretty bare of memorable moments.
“I did win the Pezula Open and Oubaai Open on the Southern Cape Golf Union circuit, but that was the choice I had to make,” he explained. “But I was in my final year at Outeniqua High and the studies had to take priority over golf. I just didn’t have the time to practice and it showed in my results.”
With matric behind him, Rebula started the 2016 with the determination to make a comeback.
The Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation member started showing glimpses of form with a top five finish in the Gauteng North Open and tie for fifth in the SA Stroke Play Championship and came agonisingly close to a podium finish in the Southern Cape Open in February.
He followed a tie for eighth in the Sanlam Cape Province Open with a three top 20 finishes in March, but it was a seventh place finish in the North West Open that sparked victory in the Eastern Province/Border Stroke Play earlier this month.
“For some reason, North West did the trick,” he said. “I think it was because I competed in a very strong field and came away knowing that I held my own at the Lost City Golf Course. It was just the kick I needed. I felt hungry to compete and I felt that old confidence coming back again.”
Rebula just missed the playoff at the Western Province Stroke Play Championship, but being in contention boosted his confidence for the match play stage.
“I had a chance on the final day, but two soft bogeys at the par threes cost me a spot in the play-off,” he said. “I didn’t play all that well, but still scored well and that gave me hope for the match play.”
And getting past three of the top-ranked amateurs in the country to reach the final fuelled that quiet self-assurance.
Rebula beat SA number five Dylan Naidoo 2-up, downed number three James du Preez 5 & 3 and defeated number seven Herman Loubser 3 & 2 to face local favourite Luca Filippi in the final round.
“The wind was howling in the semi-finals and play was suspended after nine holes,” he said. “That meant we had to resume the semi-final on Saturday morning, so the final round was reduced to 18 holes. That was a lot of pressure and it was a really tight contest. I took the lead a few times, but Luca hit back each time. I was really happy to pull through at 2 & 1 win.”
Last year, Tristen Strydom won the Western Province Stroke Play and Boland Stroke Play back-to-back. Is Rebula thinking about a hat-trick in Robertson this week?
“No, not consciously,” he admitted. “It was a great feeling to hold a trophy again and it’s fired me up, for sure. A few months ago, I was just playing for a top 10 finish, then a top five. But now I know a win could be on the cards and it’s just really nice to be back at that level again.”