Garrick Higgo fended off a determined charge from Slovakia’s Jakub Hrinda and Woo-Ju Son hung tough to secure a double celebration for South Africa with wire-to-wire victories in the Curro South African Juniors International at Durbanville Golf Club on Thursday. Sixteen-year-old Higgo from Boland fired a one-under-par 71 to claim the Boys Division title of the Global Junior Golf Tour event on 12-under-par 204. He finished three shots clear of Hrinda, who posted a 68, while Jens Christian Tvergaard from Denmark and Germany’s Constantin Unger shared third on three under 213 after respective rounds of 70 and 71.
Son began her quest for silverware as the leader by six strokes and the 15-year-old Gauteng golfer endured a rollercoaster round to prevail in the Girls Competition. The country’s top ranked junior carded a 79 and edged out KwaZulu-Natal’s Brittney-Fay Berger, who closed with a 72, by one stroke to triumph on five-over-par 220. Crystal Beukes from Boland took third on 227 after returning a final round 80.
Higgo began the final round with a six-shot advantage and managed to hold out in the face of stiff resistance from his European rival, who started the day in second place and feeling he had a chance to close the gap on the Boland teenager if he could shoot in the mid-60s. The tall Slovakian says: ‘You never know in golf what can happen at any stage. If Garrick blows out and I shoot 64 or 65, it’s game on. He played so well for the first 36 holes, though, that it’s going to be tough to catch him.’ And so it proved.
Higgo started with back-to-back birdies, surrendered a shot at the par-four third and then it was steady stuff as he parred the next six holes for an outward loop of one-under 35. Hrinda, meanwhile, began the day six shots back on five-under and stayed within striking distance. A hat-trick of birdies at five, six and seven raised his hopes and Higgo opened the door further with a bogey at the par-three 12th.
But there was little doubt about who would come out on top as Higgo showed class under pressure to seal the deal. The De Zalze junior sandwiched a bogey between birdies at 13 and 15 and closed with three pars, while Hrinda – who got within one shot with birdies at 15 and 16 – double bogeyed the short 17th before closing out with par at the final hole. Higgo says: ‘I’m just so stoked to have won such a prestigious tournament. I put the win down to solid all-round play. The driver played ball and my iron-play was consistently good. The putter was a bit off at times but that’s how it goes sometimes; the day you get into the zone will be the perfect day for us golfers. All credit to Hrinda for his effort. He made me work hard, and well done to all the other guys who took part. The players really enjoyed the week and the course made for a great occasion and the sponsors and the organisers deserve a huge thank you for their efforts.’
Son led the Girls division of 44 players from the get-go and she did not expect to be troubled by her closest rivals, who seemed set to battle it out among themselves for minor placing’s and personal pride. She held a comfortable six shot cushion after rounds of 72 and 69, but her flat-stick went ice cold in the final round and nearly blew her chances to record her biggest victory to date. Son dropped shots at one, three, four and five and four-putted for a triple-bogey seven on the par-four 10th to wipe out her lead.
However, the pocket-sized Son reached the number one spot in the junior rankings last year with her ability to string together consistent results and showing big match temperament when the odds are stacked against her. There were more woes for her with bogeys at 11 and 16, but she handled the mishaps with birdies at 15 and 17 to hold on for the win. The relieved Son says: ‘Everything went wrong and I don’t know why; it just wasn’t my day. The four-putt at 10 set me back big time and the other drops at crucial stages during the round added to the pressure. I almost needed to reboot my thought processes for the last six holes. I hung tough when it mattered most and I’m so relieved to have come through at the end.’
Berger’s round was the only under par score recorded on the final day, and left her on tenterhooks in the club house after she held the joint lead at one stage. The Kloof golfer says: ‘I played steady golf throughout. I never thought I would be in a position to force Woo-Ju’s hand, but when I finished my round I saw that we were joint-leaders. She dashed my hopes, though, when she birdied 17 and parred 18. Still, I am really proud of my achievement here and I had really enjoyed playing a tournament of this calibre.’
Photo credit: Shaun Roy / ImageSA