Nikhil Rama from Bryanston celebrated his first national success with a wire-to-wire victory in the inaugural Friends of Engelberg Challenge hosted by Anna Becker-Frankel at Devonvale Golf & Wine Estate. Picture credit: GolfRSA

STELLENBOSCH  Nikhil Rama completed a stunning wire-to-wire victory to celebrate his national breakthrough in the inaugural Friends of Engelberg Challenge hosted by Anna Becker-Frankel at Devonvale Golf & Wine Estate on Sunday.

The 17-year-old Rama was pushed all the way by reigning North and South Junior champion Tyran Snyders, but held his nerve to post a final round one-under-par 71 to win the championship on seven-under 209.

Snyders from Western Province took second on five-under after carding 70 on the last day.

The week belonged to Rama, who surged into the first round lead with a four-under 68 and held on to pole position with a second round 70.

The Bryanston junior carried a three-shot lead over Snyders into the final round, and made light work of the heavy downpour over the first eight holes.

He moved to nine-under with birdies at the second, fourth and sixth holes, extending his lead over Snyders to five shots. However, as conditions worsened, Rama let four shots slip coming home and Snyders increased the pressure with birdies at the 15th and 17th.

The tournament leader rallied with gains at the par five 11th and par four 15th and clinched the overall title with a two-putt par at the closing hole.

The breakthrough victory has been on the cards for Rama, who backed up a runner-up finish in the Nomads National Order of Merit Inland event at Modderfontein Golf Club with successive top sevens in the Dimension Data Junior Open at Fancourt and the Nomads National Order of Merit Coastal at St Francis Links in June.

“I am super stoked with my first national junior win,” said the 17-year-old Rama.

“I struggled to get the putter going in the first round, but after I birdied the ninth, the putts kept dropping. My strategy for the tournament was to try to keep the ball in play and to hit greens in regulation to give myself chances to score and I did that well in the first two rounds.

“The sweeping rain and strong wind made conditions really tough on the last day. I kept my head down and tried to remain focussed on my own game. The goal was to save pars, and to limit my mistakes.

“My bogeys at nine and 12 were soft bogeys. On 14, I hit it left over the hazard into the flowerbed. I had to take an unplayable and hit my third 45 metres right of the green. I flopped my chip-shot over the bunker and holed a 25-footer for great bogey that kept the moment going.

“I was able to birdie 15 to get the shot back and keep my lead. It feels really amazing to finally get the job done. A big thank you to Anna Becker-Frankel for bringing this new national event to our annual calendar and my parents for bringing me to Stellenbosch to compete this week.”

Jean-Pierre van der Watt from Pinnacle Point was third overall on three-under, Strand junior Francois Cilliers finished a further stroke adrift in fourth and Luke Pienaar from Erinvale rounded out the top five on one-under 215.

The leading girls were Megan Streicher from Boland and Western Province’s Kaylah Williams, who carded respective final rounds of 74 and 75 and tie for 10th on six-over.

Frankel-Becker – head professional at Devonvale Golf and Wine Estate and assistant coach of the GolfRSA / Womens Golf South Africa Elite, B and Talent Identification Squads – was thrilled with the success of the inaugural event.

“I was so pleased to see so many juniors come from all over South Africa support the first Friends of Engelberg Challenge,” Frankel-Becker said.

“I approached some of my international clients for sponsorship and it is really gratifying to show our sponsors, especially Peter Burkhalter from Engelberg, a small town in Switzerland, Dieter Kőhne and my father that their investment in junior golf in South Africa is justified and so appreciated.

“I am thrilled with the success of the first event, especially the enthusiasm of the juniors in really tough weather conditions on the final day. The juniors embraced this new national event and we look forward to growing this to become one of the most popular stops on the junior circuit.

“As an ambassador for Puma/Cobra, I am also very grateful for their support and the prizes they so generously donated. We would also like to thank The ProShop for their contributions, GolfRSA for the Titleist prizes and Boland Ladies Golf Union for their support.”

Final result

209 Nikhil Rama 68 70 71

211 Tyran Snyders 71 70 70

213 Jean Pierre van der Watt 75 68 70

214 Francois Cilliers 71 71 72

215 Luke Pienaar 70 73 72

216 Ryan van Velzen 71 74 71; Judd Sundelson 71 73 72

219 C.J van Wyk 72 73 74

221 Kayle Wykes 71 72 78

222 Kaylah Williams 78 69 75; Megan Streicher 73 75 74

223 Brandon Weir 77 73 73; Jurie Mostert 69 75 79

224 Jack Buchanan 73 75 76; Hannes Strooh 73 72 79

225 Matthew Mc Carthy 74 76 75; Matthew Dennis 74 72 79; Warwick Purchase 73 73 79

226 Keegan-Slade Couch 78 74 74; Luc Gavagnin 71 77 78; Joshua Wiese 71 75 80

228 Christopher Bagnall 79 73 76

230 Angelo Keffers 78 76 76; Dylan Melville 74 73 83

231 Fabrizio de Abreu 77 79 75; Lyle Pedro 75 76 80; Jan Stals van Rooyen 75 76 80

232 Alric Rowaan Rooi 78 76 78; Pieter Rossouw 77 73 82

233 Tiaan Hugo 78 77 78; Jack Brugman 77 79 77; Enzo Barbaglia 75 79 79

234 Stefan Krüger 82 72 80; Craig Louw 79 74 81; Stephanie Barbaglia 77 79 78

235 Jordan Wessels 79 78 78

236 Craig Jacobs 77 76 83

237 Jaden Deltel 82 78 77; Keanan Keffers 78 78 81

239 Matthew Lotz 76 83 80

241 Samantha Whateley 77 79 85; Hayden Morgan-Evens 76 78 87; Malan Potgieter 71 86 84

244 James Peter Joubert 81 82 81

245 Kera Healey 83 82 80; Justin Behrens 79 83 83; Janus Roberts 76 82 87

247 Elizabeth Lightley 84 85 78

248 Ruben Fortuin 80 85 83; Kyle Conradie 80 81 87; Jungwi Lee 79 86 83

249 Shani Brynard 88 81 80

250 Rorisang Nkosi(Jnr) 89 81 80

252 Danny Wattrus 83 80 89; Ineke Brynard 82 84 86; Ronan Nortje 81 84 87

253 Thomas Pieter Joubert 87 81 85; Danie Jooste 83 83 87

257 Thomas Esterhuyse 91 82 84

259 Joshua Coleman 81 89 89

260 Ryan Melville 83 90 87

264 Jonathan Mather 81 89 94

272 John Rabie 90 93 89

WD Kieran Urquhart 90 79 WD

African News Agency (ANA)