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3rd December 2023

SA young guns chasing Investec SA Open glory

It was a challenging day worthy of the Investec South African Open, and it was a day when two young South Africans rose to that challenge.

Jayden Schaper and Ryan van Velzen, two good friends who’ve come through the ranks of GolfRSA together and onto the Sunshine Tour, will head into Sunday’s final round of the Investec South African Open tied for the lead on nine under par.

On a day of intense heat, tough pin placements and a Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate playing extremely long, Schaper signed for a solid third round of five-under-par 67 and Van Velzen responded with a patient two-under-par 70.

The South Africans hold a one-stroke lead over countryman Louis de Jager, who posted a 70. But the leaderboard remains extremely tight, with Dean Burmester signing for a 65 that puts him in a dangerous group of challengers including Matteo Manassero and David Ravetto on seven under par. Burmester is chasing back-to-back victories following his win in last week’s Joburg Open.

But for two young South Africans who’ve been dreaming of this moment since their junior golf days together, Sunday is going to be a day to remember as they tee off in the final group together.

“I have some very good memories of this championship. Growing up and playing all the GolfRSA events and doing well in all of those, this is kind of the next one on the list. I had a strong amateur career with some good wins, and I’ve learnt a lot for this moment. Growing up you always want to win your national Open. I’ve had great experiences of it in the past from my first time playing in it as an amateur,” said Schaper.

It was a sentiment echoed by Van Velzen.

“I think it’s great. You know myself, Jayden and Casey (Jarvis) have all grown up together and been friends for a very long time. I think whatever happens tomorrow, we’ll celebrate together after the round,” said Van Velzen.

Both Schaper and Van Velzen did exceptionally well to work their way to the top of the leaderboard in a third round that surprised many in the field in terms of how tough the course played.

“Normally on moving day they put the pins in easier positions and move the tee boxes forward to create a few more birdies. But today was the opposite – they tucked the pins, the greens were firm, the tee boxes were back so it was just brutal out there,” said Schaper.

Van Velzen was equally pleased with how he handled the round.

“I think I played unbelievably well today. I played smart golf. I stayed very patient and was fine with making pars out there. I wasn’t going to chase birdies with those tough flags because that’s how bogeys are made. But it was a lot of fun out there with the crowd chanting my name,” he said.

Come Sunday afternoon, the crowds could well be chanting the name of a new young South African adding his own name to the greats on this prestigious trophy.