Team SA ready to challenge at WATC

RIVIERA MAYA, Mexico (20 September 2016) – Top ranked Jovan Rebula, Marco Steyn and Dylan Naidoo are primed to hunt South Africa’s first victory in the Eisenhower Trophy at the esteemed biennial World Amateur Team Championship (WATC), which tees off at Riviera Maya near Cancun in Mexico on Wednesday.

Team South Africa (ltr Jovan Rebula, Dylan Naidoo and Marco Steyn); credit SAGA
Team South Africa (ltr Jovan Rebula, Dylan Naidoo and Marco Steyn); credit SAGA

Steyn – a matriculant at Tuks High School in Pretoria – had to complete a marathon 13 examinations in two weeks before he could dash off to Cancun with the team’s manager Eden Thompson.

Rebula and Naidoo flew in from the United States on Friday.

Both players took up golf scholarships in the USA in August and Rebula came to Mexico via Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama while Naidoo travelled from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Coming off a tie for 25th in his debut for the Auburn Tigers, Rebula will captain Team South Africa against the other 71 teams competing for the Eisenhower Trophy.

“We are all incredibly excited to start the WATC and realise our collective dream of playing for South Africa in this prestigious championship,” said the Southern Cape youngster.

“This was ultimately one of our biggest goals as amateurs. We started competing for a spot on this team as juniors and it was always a topic of discussion at almost every event. To achieve this goal was a huge confidence booster for all of us, because it was the end result of a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get here.”

The 2016 WATC will be contested at the Mayakoba El Camaleón Golf Club and Iberostar Playa Paraiso Golf Club, designed by Pete Dye and Greg Norman respectively.

The team walked off their jetlag by supporting the South African women’s team during the final round of the Espirito Santo Trophy over the first nine holes of the Iberostar on Saturday.

“On Sunday, we examined the Mayakoba and headed back to complete the back nine at the Iberostar,” Rebula said. “It is pretty important to walk the courses, just in case the official practice rounds got cancelled. We were able to take a really good look at the set-up at both courses over the weekend. We also spend time at the driving range and worked on our short games and spend the rest of the weekend exploring some of the great attractions here at the Pairaso Maya resort.

“On Monday, we had our first official practice round at the Mayakoba. Both courses are strong designs, with really challenging greens that offer small targets with penalising slopes. The rough isn’t too long, but at both courses it is pretty thick. It will definitely come into play if you are struggling with distance or accuracy off the tee.”

Rebula said that nerves won’t be a problem, but the heat and humidity could pose a problem.

“The hot weather hasn’t been too bad, but the humidity is extreme,” he said. “When we walked with the girls, we noticed that their gloves started slipping after just three holes. It’s something we will have to manage really well.

“I think we will all be a little nervous standing on the first tee on Wednesday, but we’ve competed internationally against the best before and you just have to get on with the job.”

The first WATC was won by three-time champions Australia in 1958.

Defending champions USA has been the dominant performer in the event with a record 15 Eisenhower Trophy victories compared to four by Great Britain and Ireland and three by Australia, while France, Sweden, New Zealand, Japan, Scotland, the Netherlands and Canada have one victory each.

South Africa finished third twice and the closest a team got to the winner’s circle in the last 28 editions was a runner-up finish at Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina in 36 years ago.

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