KZN shines at KZN Open and SA Mid Am

Posted by Gail Channell
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on Friday, 10 May 2019 in News

Nikhil Gopal KZNOpenWinner

Nikhil Gopal (VCC) receives the KZN Open SP trophy from Ivan Curlewis, KZNGU president.

IT'S been a big week for KwaZulu-Natal golf, with Nikhil Gopal (18) winning the KwaZulu-Natal Open Strokeplay at Beachwood and Derek Scullard (40) defending the South African Mid-Amateur strokeplay champs at Ebotse Golf Estate.

While Scullard has had a long, illustrious and occasionally chequered career, Gopal is just starting out, with this win confirmation of the natural talent he has already shown.

It also showed his tremendous mettle in trying circumstances, with his caddie having not one but two epileptic fits during the tournament.

In the end, it was a two-horse race between Gopal and one of the country's fastest improving juniors, Casey Jarvis of State Mines.

But it started really badly for the young player from Victoria Country Club.

He made a double on the first hole, then lost a ball on the 3rd, but managed to limit the damage to a bogey.

“My caddie told me, you've got 68 holes to go to make birdies, just calm down, trust yourself,” he said.

Later in the round, his caddie had an epileptic fit, on the 11th green.

“That was quite scary, we stopped play to take care of him and then just had to carry on with the round.”

Gopal ended with 71, and followed it up with a solid 70 on Saturday.

His caddie returned on Sunday morning, looking fit and healthy and buoyed by the impressive golf Gopal was playing.

On Sunday, it was cut and thrust all day between the two youngsters.

Gopal eventually triumphed, shooting 71 and 67.

Worryingly, his caddie had his second fit on the 1st green in the afternoon round.

“He hit the ground again. It was hard to someone go down like that, twice,” he said. 

Gopal was able to focus on his golf and keep Jarvis at bay.

“I had to get another caddie and just put it out of my mind. We had a really good battle, myself and Casey.” 

A huge turning point came at the 15th, which was playing into a strong wind.

At that stage Gopal had a four shot lead, but he found the bunker with his approach, while Jarvis struck an iron shot to about 15 feet.

“I was thinking I'd better get up and down as this could be a two shot swing. Then in the back of my mind I thought I could have a five shot lead if I hole it.”

The ball came out beautifully and never looked like missing, going in 'middle cup'.

“It was nice to release some emotion after that shot!”

Coming down the straight, Jarvis eagled the par five 17th but Gopal made a birdie.

On the 72nd, it ended with a bit of an anti-climax, Gopal making a bogey, but by then it didn't matter and he really wasn't too bothered.

TOP 10:
-9 Nikhil Gopal
-7 Casey Jarvis
+1 Keagan Thomas
+4 Jordan Burnand
+5 Francois van der Walt
+6 Jono Broomhead
+6 Luca Filippi
+6 John-Louis Liebenberg
+7 Nikhil Rama
+7 Siyanda Mwandla

At Benoni, Scullard beat Shaun Stapleton in extra time with an eagle on the first extra hole of a sudden-death playoff.

He hit a superb drive down the middle and arrowed in a 5-iron to about 12 foot, before rolling in the putt to claim the victory.

He said it was one of the toughest challenges of his career.

“I'm a little sore,” he said the day following his win.

“It's a great layout but not for the faint-hearted,” he laughed, glad it was over.

“It's actually not that tight, but you do have to give a lot of thought to where you want to hit your ball. Lose a ball and it's a double, quickly.”

He was thrilled with the victory, and looking forward already to having a crack at a rare hat-trick.

218 Derek Scullard 73 74 71 (won first play-off hole)
218 Shaun Stapleton 74 72 72
220 Neil Homann 73 72 75
221 Mark Beattie 78 70 73
222 Elton James 75 76 71

David Rush

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