Rising Limpopo star Hennie du Plessis was full of smiles when he landed back on South African soil after a fruitful debut in the MCB Indian Ocean Amateur Golf Open in Mauritius last week.
Du Plessis upstaged fellow South Africans Jason Smith and NJ Arnoldi at the Tamarina Golf Club to claim a four stroke victory in the second edition of the prestigious international event on Sunday.
The 17-year-old Sesambos golfer lagged four off the pace after an opening 75, but carded a second 71 to catch up to reigning SA Amateur Stroke Play champion, Smith.
Smith took the first round lead with a 71 and held on for a share of pole with a 75.
The leading pair went into the final round one stroke clear of Mauritian number one, Ludovic Bax, and three shots ahead of Arnoldi.
Du Plessis took on the two-club wind at the testy layout and fired a tournament low four-under-par 68 to claim his second international podium finish.
“I would love to make this a habit,” joked Du Plessis, who also lifted the Zambia Amateur Open title a little over a year ago.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with this victory,” said Du Plessis after finishing on two under 214.
“Going up against top amateurs like Jason, NJ and Ludovic was pretty challenging. The field wasn’t massive, but it was stacked with top ranked players from Mauritius, Reunion Island and Madagascar and the two top ranked amateurs from India.
“It was a great experience for me to go up against them and come out winning.”
Du Plessis pulled clear of the field with a birdie at the first and remained unchallenged throughout the round. The junior from Swartwater birdied the third and fifth, had a three-putt bogey at the sixth, but protected his advantage with birdies at the 15 and 16th.
“The course was in fantastic condition and the greens rolled superbly,” Du Plessis said. “It’s a challenging layout, because it demands a lot of accuracy. It was a great challenge and I really enjoyed the experience.”
The young gun said the victory has given him a nice boost of confidence as he transitions from the junior circuit to the Open Amateur ranks.
“It’s pretty tough when you first come on to the Open Amateur circuit and it takes a while to find your comfort zone again,” he said. “I know I have the patience, the game and the focus to compete against the country’s top ranked players; I just need to build up my experience.”
The three South African players were guests of the Mauritius Golf Federation.
“This was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my career,” he said. “We were treated extremely well by the Mauritius Golf Federation and all the officials, volunteers and the players. The tournament was very well organised and the accommodation, food and functions were all first class.
“It’s was a real privilege for me to get the chance to compete in a tournament of this stature and it’s great that MCB is supporting such a fantastic tournament.
“I just hope the Mauritius Golf Federation will invite me back next year to defend my title.”
Smith from TuksSport Golf Academy closed with a 72 to take second on two over 218.
Arnoldi finished in third on five over 221 after signing for a 72, while Bax took fourth on eight over after registering a 77 in the final round.