Jayden Schaper (GolfRSA photo)
His GolfRSA National Squad team-mates dubbed him ‘Clutch’ when he won the Junior Players Championship last year, but super-cool Jayden Schaper earned a new nick-name in the press centre on day one of the South African Open Championship, hosted by the City of Joburg.
His uncanny ability to hit a golf ball exactly where he wants to – to shape it so perfectly – quickly earned South Africa’s number one ranked amateur the nick-name “The Shaper".
On Thursday at Randpark Golf Club, playing in his first national Open alongside two of his idols – defending champion Oosthuizen and European Tour winner Christiaan Bezuidenhout – Schaper never once looked intimidated by the big occasion.
“If ever there was a young golfer destined to follow in the spike marks of a Louis Oosthuizen or a Charl Schwartzel, according to the golf writers, this youngster fits the bill,” predict the golf writers.
He didn’t only wow the press. Oosthuizen, too, was hugely impressed with Schaper.
“Jayden's got this wonderful ball flight off the tee with a little cut. A lot of the guys hit high draws for more distance, but what Jayden has is pure class. We'll be seeing him right at the top in the future.”
Schaper is the first junior in South African golfing history to achieve the ‘grand slam’ of Nomads SA Boys titles, winning the U-13, U-15 and U-17 tournaments and the elusive double at the Nomads SA Boys U-19 Championship as a 16-year-old at Langebaan Golf Club in 2017.
Last year he won the SA Stroke Play Championship, shooting a course record 63 at De Zalze Golf Club en route to victory in the high-ranking international event. And, in addition to five more wins on the GolfRSA Open Amateur circuit, the 18-year-old Benoni golfer became the first South African to win the Junior Players Championship – considered among the most prestigious junior golf tournaments in the world.
Schaper was gunning to become the first amateur to win the South African Open since Denis Hutchinson in 1959, staying close to the lead through three rounds before finishing tied for sixth at 13 under par.
Not since Ernie Els in 1989 had an amateur finished in the top six of the world’s second oldest championship.
“That’s a pretty big name. Ernie is someone I’ve looked up to because he has been one of the most consistent golfers to play the game. It’s pretty cool to see my name up there with his and other names like that,” said Schaper. “It was a special week, and one that I’ll never forget.”
“I’m glad I could keep my cool in such a pressure environment in a tournament like this. Just to show I can compete with these guys, in just my second European Tour start. I still have lots to learn and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Expect many more opportunities in the years ahead for Jayden Schaper, who could turn out to be next South African star to follow in the footsteps of Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel and Oosthuizen.