Gauteng North’s Keegan de Lange made South African golfing history by becoming the first player from this country to reach the final of the Boys Amateur Championship, which was first played for way back in 1921.
The 18-year-old did lose 4 & 3 to Sweden’s Marcus Svenssonn in the 36-hole final at Royal Birkdale in north-west England, but his run to the final read like a fairy tale.
De Lange, from Pretoria Country Club and a Gavan Levenson Academy player, praised his opponent but said:
“I hope to be back at this famous course one day to play the British Amateur or the British Open.”
The lone South African starter in the international field of 252 players from 19 countries in the 89th edition of this prestigious international junior championship, De Lange finished fifth in the 36-hole Stroke Play Qualifier.
He then outclassed American Ben Albin to win his first round match 6 & 5, before downing Nathan Longley from England 2 & 1 to reach the last 16.
Next up was Dane Zacharias Agerbak and the reigning Free State Open champion defeated him 4 & 3 to make the quarter-finals.
He then held his nerve to dispatch England’s Billy Spooner at the 19th hole and, a few hours later, beat Borja Martin Torre 3 & 2 in a tightly-contested semi-final.
“When I knew I was in the final, I checked out the past winners’ list. I saw names like Sir Michael Bonallack, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia and Pablo Martin. So it’s a really big tournament”.
“This was an unbelievable week for me and to be the first South African finalist was really the cherry on top. Even though I lost in the final, I will treasure the memories from this week for a long, long time.”
De Lange has always viewed himself as a strong stroke play competitor and was surprised how well he did at Royal Birkdale.
“Actually, I am usually rubbish at match play,” he said. “But I changed my mind-set. I decided just to enjoy myself and not to sweat about the bad holes and it worked well for me”.
“The match against Borja was definitely the toughest one of the week. He played really well and it was a real battle of wills. No-one gave away a shot.”
De Lange said he enjoyed playing on the iconic links which has hosted six British Opens.
He paid tribute to his coach, former South African Open champion Levenson, for helping him plot his way around Royal Birkdale.
“Gavan has been my mentor for almost three years and he’s transformed my game. While I was in England I regularly sent him video clips of my swing. We talk all the time and he always knows just what to say.”