South Africa's winning squad (Getty)
By Jeff Shain
South Africa’s boys put the finishing touches on a record romp at the TOYOTA Junior Golf World Cup supported by JAL, riding the 1-2 combination of Samuel Simpson and Martin Vorster for one more day to become the first team to break 40-under par over 72 holes.
Simpson and Vorster matched each other with 3-under-par 68s at Chukyo Golf Club, with Simpson finishing four shots ahead of his teammate for individual honors. South Africa’s team score of 41-under-par 811 Friday wound up a full 11 shots clear of runner-up Japan and 12 ahead of Spain.
“We’re extremely proud of them,” said South Africa captain Eden Thompson. “A lot of them have done very well individually, both internationally and at home. But to put your country’s name up there – this one’s very special for us.”
The title was South Africa’s second in the event’s 27-year history, alongside the 2001 squad that included future major winners Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
Japan won the girls’ championship for the second consecutive year, holding off challenges from Mexico and the United States to keep the trophy in the home nation’s possession.
Tsubasa Kajitani led Japan’s final-round push with a 4-under-par 68, capped by a 15-foot birdie at the 18th hole that effectively sealed the outcome with one group still on the course.
“That’s when I felt confident Japan would win,” said coach Saori Iwamoto. “Even so, I went back to Miyu (Yamashita) and told her not to get too comfortable. Just play your golf.”
Yamashita parred the final hole for a 71, bringing Japan to the finish at 18-under 558. Kajitani, Yamashita and teammate Akie Iwai all placed among the top 10 among individuals.
Mexico finished three shots off the pace for runner-up honors, with the U.S. girls another shot back.
“Congrats to the Japan team,” said Rose Zhang, who paced the U.S. effort with a 68. “They really killed it out there. They played spectacularly.”
Zhang was part of a three-way deadlock for individual honors, joined by Mexico’s Cory Lopez (68) and Australia’s Cassie Porter (69). “I don’t think I’ve seen that before,” said Lopez.
The competition uses a format similar to U.S. college golf, with each boys’ team counting the three best scores among its four players each day. In the girls’ division, each team will count the two best scores among three.
South Africa’s boys already had rewritten the record book earlier in the week, becoming the first team in at least a dozen years to break 200 in a single day when they combined for a 14-under-par 199 on Wednesday. One day later, they went even lower at 19-under 195.
Friday brought a tougher course setup and the arrival of afternoon breezes, keeping anyone from approaching that standard. Nonetheless, South Africa got off to a solid start and never let anyone get closer than six shots.
“From there it was just managing expectations,” said Thompson. “Things got really slow on the back nine, and they had a lot of business to contend with. We just tried to manage their time around the 12th tee and keep them focused.”
Simpson noted that Vorster, a product of the Louis Oosthuizen Academy in their homeland, received a message between rounds from the former Open Championship winner wishing the team good luck.
“That was really cool,” said Simpson. “You get a bit of goosebumps to think that he’s watching the live scoring and rooting for us. It was exciting to close it out for him.”
Simpson was hardly challenged for individual honors, entering the day with a three-shot lead after rounds of 65-63. Three birdies in Friday’s first 10 holes kept any challengers at bay.
“It’s good to come overseas and play well,” said Simpson, who finished at 18-under 266. “Anybody can play well in their home country, but it’s really nice to come and do it overseas. And our team did it also as a whole.”
Vorster wound up four shots behind his teammate, with Canada’s Christopher Vendette (68) another stroke back in third.
The girls’ competition was tight throughout, with Mexico and the United States alternately making surges to put pressure on the Japan girls. The difference came at the finish, where both Lopez and Zhang bogeyed their last two holes while Japan combined to play No.18 in even-par.
“We are proud of our finish,” said Lopez. “We definitely wanted to win this. We were super short (of succeeding), but second place is good for us.”
Lopez, Zhang and Porter completed the individual competition at 11-under 277, one stroke ahead of Kajitani.
ABOUT THE Toyota Junior Golf World Cup
International team competition with teams of
four representing each country. 72-hole
individual stroke play competition in conjunction
with a 72-hole team competition. Best 3 of 4
rounds each day used for the team score.
Participants must be boys aged 18 or under,
and not a college or university student.
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