Africa Amateur Championship: Altin Van Der Merwe continues to dominate
Altin van der Merwe (Royal and Ancient Photo)
Altin van der Merwe (Royal and Ancient Photo)

Altin van der Merwe survived a dramatic three-way play-off against Christiaan Maas and Ivan Verster to win the inaugural Africa Amateur Championship at Leopard Creek.

The three South Africans finished tied at 13-under after the regulation 72 holes, with van der Merwe seeing an eagle chance at the last slip agonizingly by the hole, but he bounced back to seal the championship with a birdie on the par-5 No. 18.

“It’s awesome to be the new Africa Amateur Champion. It’s an unbelievable feeling, but I don’t think it’ll kick in until later,” said van der Merwe, who shot a final round 2-under 70.

“The two competitors I played with are two great friends, and we went back and forth throughout the day. I think all three of us had the lead at one stage. On the last hole, I just pulled a blinder of an approach out, and in the play-off, I made a good two-putt. I can't describe the feeling, it means everything to me.”

Altin van der Merwe

The 27-year-old has earned exemptions into The 152nd Open at Royal Troon, The Amateur Championship, the Alfred Dunhill Championship, and the Waterfall City Tournament of Champions powered by Attacq.

“I can't wait to play in The Open,” said van der Merwe. “Honestly, I can't wait. It's links golf as well, so I'm going to be licking my chops out there with just a little sting two iron all day, and I just can't wait until the time comes.”

Van der Merwe is currently ranked No. 22 in the Golfweek/ World Rankings and No. 2 in the Mid-Amateur Rankings.

It was bitter disappointment and heartbreak for his compatriots.

Having held the overnight lead, Verster slipped to a 1-over 73, and his hopes of lifting the trophy ended in the play-off after over-shooting the green and finding the water lying behind.

“I’m heartbroken just now,” said an emotional Verster after the play-off.

“I mean, I played unbelievable golf for the first three rounds, so I have to be happy with my performance in some ways. I’ve enjoyed everything about this week and The R&A has been absolutely incredible. It’s been a really special week at Leopard Creek, and it’s my favorite place in the world to be.”

Maas, the top-ranked player in the field, could only muster up a level-par 72, and he left the door open for van der Merwe to claim the win after missing his birdie putt in the play-off.

“Today wasn’t a good performance,” reflected Maas.

“I felt like I had a couple of unlucky breaks early on so I couldn’t get momentum. I felt like I could have made a lot more birdies on the back nine and holed the putts. This stuff happens though and that’s why we play golf. The way Altin (van der Merwe) finished was unbelievable.

“This week was a lot of fun, especially coming all the way home from America. I love this place and Mr (Johann) Rupert has always been nice to me with this place, so hopefully one day I can come down here and become a champion.”

Zimbabwe’s Matthew Bramford split the pack of South Africans at the top of the leaderboard with a final round 68 to finish three shots further back on ten-under-par, while there was also drama and excitement earlier in the round as his fellow countryman Keegan Shutt claimed the course record with a remarkable ten-under-par 62.

Starting on the tenth tee, the 17-year-old made six birdies on his front nine before following up with shots picked up on Holes No. 11 and 12, and then a brilliant eagle on No. 15.

“I'm buzzing, words can't express it,” exclaimed Shutt, who finished in a tie for eighth.

“I don't know how I kept my nerves today, especially coming up to the closing holes. I'm just really glad that I held it together. This is my best round of golf competitively and a 62 at this amazing course at Leopard Creek tops everything. Before the day, I would never have imagined being in this position. I'm just so happy that I managed to do it."              

Results: African Amateur
1South AfricaAltin Van Der MerweSouth Africa70069-65-71-70=275
T2South AfricaChristiaan MaasSouth Africa50071-69-63-72=275
T2South AfricaIvan VersterSouth Africa50066-69-67-73=275
4ZimbabweMatthew BramfordZimbabwe40065-74-71-68=278
5South AfricaSimon du PlooySouth Africa40069-72-67-72=280

View full results for African Amateur

ABOUT THE African Amateur

Introduced by the R&A in 2024, this event aims to replicate the success of the Latin American and Asia- Pacific amateur championships that have provided a pathway for golfers in different parts of the world to reach elite levels of the sport. 72-hole stroke play event, with the winner of the men's championship earning an exemption into the Open Championship.

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