Rising Star

A couple of years ago, 14-year-old Kyra van Kan was on course to become the youngest SA Amateur champion, but she was denied by former No 1-ranked Caitlyn Macnab.

Van Kan had two more stabs at women’s amateur golf’s most prestigious title. She fell again at the final hurdle two years later but had learned from those earlier losses. When she finally shrugged off the bridesmaid tag in 2023, she did so in dominant style, routing up-and-coming junior Ellandri van Heerden 11&10 to make the title hers (below).

The way Van Kan navigated herself into a third 36-hole final and won at Mount Edgecombe Country Club Estate perfectly illustrated the grit, determination, bravery and tenacity that placed her in the winner’s circle six times in 2022 and propelled her to the summit of the GolfRSA Open and Junior Rankings at the start of 2023.

THE GOLF MAG caught up with 18-year-old Van Kan after she was crowned the Emerging Athlete of the Year for 2022-23 at the 18th Momentum gsport Awards in September.

Kyra, winning the SA Amateur on your third attempt this year was a crowning moment in your career. What did it mean to you?
Yes, it was an amazing achievement. It really meant the world to me because all the long hours and hard work I put into my golf finally paid off. I am extremely honoured to have my name on a trophy alongside so many great golfers.

You achieved an incredible level of consistency in 2022 and kept that going this year. What has been the change for you to get to this point?
I set myself a list of goals I wanted to achieve in 2022, including breaking into the top five in the Open Amateur ranking, but I never pressurised myself to do well or focus on the results. I took every event a hole at a time and went out there relaxed and trusting myself. The more tournaments you play, the more confident you will feel and begin to realise your full potential. I enjoy tournaments; I adore the feeling of butterflies you have when you stand on the first tee box, or even the pressure of the last hole when you are leading a tournament. Having a clear mindset and being surrounded by nature is what makes me feel calm and collected on the golf course.


Kyra brings it home at the SA Amateur Championships at Mt Edgecombe Country Club Estate.

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In the past two years, you competed at two top events in the United Kingdom, played the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup in Japan twice, travelled to Indonesia and the US, and won two All Africa Junior Golf Championships. How have the international experiences benefited your career? 
They were all unforgettable experiences. I wore the green and gold for the first time at the 2022 All Africa Junior Golf Championship in Egypt, and it put the brightest smile on my face because that was one of my biggest dreams. It’s a great privilege to experience a different country and their beautiful cultures. The golf course in Egypt, for instance, was interesting because there was no thick grass, just sand. And Team South Africa brought home the gold! The venues in Japan are always perfect. The courses are in the best condition, and you get to play with some of the top-ranked juniors in the world. That is where you realise how high the level of golf is out there. Japan taught me an important lesson – to not come to a big event with grand expectations.

My most memorable trip was playing at the Home of Golf in Scotland. Entering the town of St Andrews gave me goosebumps because it was such a magical place and I felt so fortunate to represent my country there. The conditions in Scotland were tough, especially in the wind, and I quickly learned how to hit low shots and control the ball under the wind.


Off the course with Kyra van Kan

From my trips abroad, I learned how to depend on myself more, trust the decisions I make and to control my mindset. I learned that you have to focus on your own game and shut everything else out. Another unforgettable experience was watching Ashleigh Buhai play phenomenal golf at the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield. She has always been my role model, so watching her win the tournament was unreal. I felt like a brand-new golfer when I left Scotland because of how much I grew in my golf. It changed my life and my perspective of the game. The opportunities GolfRSA has given me this year have been incredible, and I am forever grateful.

You are now one of the senior members of the GolfRSA National Squad, having come up through the ranks. With so many young members joining the squad this year, do you feel like you are taking on a mentorship role?
As a 14-year-old who just joined the National Squad, I looked up to senior players, and their recognition meant so much to me. Taking on that role is special, I will always try to teach some of the younger girls because I was once in their position. So it is important for me to help them out. I love sharing my perspective on things with other girls. Learning from older players helps you develop into a better player.


Highlights of the 2023 Nomads SA Girls Rose Bowl Championship where Kyra van Kan dominated with a 13-shot victory.

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