Allen hits pay dirt at Kingston’s Junior event
Potchefstroom golfer Stephen Allen knew that the stakes would be high even before he arrived at Rustenburg Golf Club on Sunday.
The James Kingston Tournament was the last throw of the dice for one happy junior golfer to qualify for this prestigious Glacier Junior Series National Final and Allen knew this competition would go down to the wire.
“This was last chance saloon stuff all the way,” the 17-year-old Tuks Sport High School student said. “That’s why golfers from all over South Africa flocked to Rustenburg. There were players from the Western Province, Southern Cape, Mpumalanga, all the Gauteng regions and the North West and every player in the A-Division wanted to win that last spot to tee it up at the national final.
“The pay-off is a chance to challenge 24 other juniors for an all-expenses trip from Glacier by Sanlam to compete at the Orange Bowl Junior Invitational, so I knew it was going to be a stampede to the finish in Rustenburg.”
As predicted, the competition was tough indeed but Allen stayed with the pack of golfers gunning for glory right up until the final hole.
“The course played exceptionally tight and the greens were a real mystery,” said Allen. “The club had re-done the greens and they had only been opened for a week. They were superb, but didn’t roll consistently yet and it was tough to judge the pace.
“Everyone battled and I was two over after 15 holes, but I managed to get up-and-down for birdie at the par-five 16th. That got me going. Then I rolled in a 25-foot downhill putt for birdie at the 18th to finish even-par. I thought it might be good enough but I still wasn’t sure if it was enough.”
Allen only began playing on the Glacier Junior Series last year, but one of his goals this year was to try to make the final. “I’m so relieved that I’ve made it, even if I left it nearly too late,” said Allen, after beating fellow North West province player, Arno Muller, by one shot.
But after claiming the coveted last spot, Allen admitted that meeting Kingston would have been reward enough.
“I was really stoked when I saw James Kingston at the club,” he said. “The country’s top professionals host most of the Glacier Junior Series tournaments, but due to their schedules, they are often not in the country when their events are played.
“James has been a great player for many years, having won in Europe, Asia and South Africa. But he has also been an amazing role model for us juniors. It was such an honour for me to meet him.”
And the tournament host was equally swept up in the occasion.
“This tournament was the last opportunity this year for one player to win and qualify for the final,” Kingston said. “Every guy who teed it up in the A-Division knew the deal and you could almost cut the tension with a knife out there on the putting green before they teed off.”
The 15-time international winner said that although he was impressed by the lower handicap players, the talent on show in the B- and C-Divisions was really inspiring.
“When Glacier by Sanlam first launched this series in 2010, I got involved because I knew from experience how important a competitive platform is. I was happy to add my name to the list of other professionals and golf industry leaders who recognised how important competition is for the juniors and supported the series.
“I paid for more attention to the lower handicaps in the previous two years, but this year I drove out there and really watched the higher handicaps. All I can say is that the standard out there was mind-blowing. We have some amazing talent in junior golf and there is certainly no need for South Africa to worry about where our future major champions will come from.
“Judging by the battle in the A-Division, though, I think this year’s national final is going to go down to the wire and it will be an incredible show of talent and tenacity.”
The Glacier Junior Series National Final takes place at Hermanus Golf Club from 3 – 5 October.
JAMES KINGSTON TOURNAMENT RESULTS
A-Division (1-6 Handicap)
1. Stephen Allen 72 gross
2. Arno Muller 73 gross
3. Jean Labuschagne 75 gross (on count out)
Best Nett – Jean van Wyk 71
B-Division (7-18 Handicap)
1. Wian Breedt 75 gross
2. Jhanelle Strydom 77 gross
3. Peter Theron 81 gross
Best Nett – Christopher Long 69
C-Division (19-36 Handicap)
1. Jaco Breedt 41 points
2. Brandon Weir 38 points
3. Marlo Hildebrand 37 points