living the africa dream

Altin van der Merwe held his nerve under the greatest pressure to secure the Africa Amateur Championship in a sudden-death playoff

The 27-year-old GolfRSA No 1 had been hoping to cap off an outstanding amateur career with a strong finish at the event, but may need to hold off on turning professional for a little longer, as the win includes exemptions into The Amateur Championship, the 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon, the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the Waterfall City Tournament of Champions.

“I can’t wait to play at The Open,” said Van der Merwe. “It’s links golf, so I’m going to be licking my chops out there, and I can’t wait until the time comes.”

It took some clutch golf for Van der Merwe to get there, although it’s fair to say the GolfRSA National Squad member has been delivering under pressure for the past 12 months. Seven days earlier, he holed an unlikely bunker shot on the closing hole at Houghton Golf Club to win the inaugural GolfRSA International Amateur Championship in a tense playoff with Dutchman Jack Ingham.

Van der Merwe seized the moment once again at Leopard Creek Country Club.


Watch all the highlights from the thrilling final round of the Africa Amateur Championship.

On the last hole I just pulled out a blinder of an approach and in the playoff, I made a good two-putt. I can’t describe the feeling; it means everything to me


Van der Merwe shares his thoughts after emerging victorious at Leopard Creek.

Starting the day three shots back, he saw numerous putts shave the edge of the hole but kept his nerve to crucially birdie the par-five 18th hole twice in succession – first in regulation play and then in the playoff against compatriots Christiaan Maas and overnight leader Ivan Verster.

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

Van der Merwe has been the hottest player in South African men’s amateur golf for the past year, rising to the top of the GolfRSA Open Amateur ranking on the back of four wins and five other top-10s in his last 20 starts. The Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation member also finished as the leading amateur at the South African Open.

“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,” he said.

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The three South Africans were deadlocked on 13 under par after the regulation 72 holes. Van der Merwe had the best final round of the trio, signing for a two-under-par 70, while Maas finished with a level-par round of 72 and overnight leader Verster shot 73.

Verster got off to a nervy start, dropping shots at the 3rd and the 7th, and making a double-bogey at the 4th. However, birdies at the 11th, 12th and 15th saw him return to the top of the leaderboard, before making a costly bogey at the par-three 16th.

“I’m heartbroken just now,” said the 20-year-old Verster, also a member of the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, after the playoff.

“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, it’s my favourite place in the world to be.”

For Maas, it was another near miss at the iconic venue.


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On the final day of the Africa Amateur Championship, Zimbabwean Keegan Shutt produced the round of a lifetime to sign for a 10-under-par 62 that included eight birdies and an eagle, breaking the record of 63 which Maas had equalled.

“I’m buzzing, words can’t express it,” said the former Nomads SA U-15 champion, 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 I held it together.

“This is my best round of golf competitively and a 62 on this amazing Leopard Creek course tops everything. Before the day, I would never have imagined being in this position. I’m just so happy I managed to do it.”

“Today wasn’t a good performance,” he said. “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 finished was unbelievable.”

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Kyra van Kan made it a hat-trick of February wins with a commanding nine-stroke victory at the inaugural Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational

Having swept to runaway victories at the South African Stroke Play Championship and the inaugural GolfRSA International Amateur Championship on the GolfRSA South African Swing earlier in the month, Van Kan sealed her third title in three weeks with a wire-to-wire victory over 54 holes at Leopard Creek Country Club.

“I’m seriously overwhelmed, it’s such an amazing feeling,” the 18-year-old Van Kan said when asked what it was like to be the first champion of the new R&A-run event.

“Finishing here on such a prestigious golf course, I’m really honoured to have played golf in front of Mr [Johann] Rupert, The R&A and GolfRSA. It’s just incredible. I’m so honoured to have my name on the trophy.

“This is something I don’t think I’ll forget until I’m like 90, I’ll always cherish this moment. The R&A has made it feel so special and I’m forever grateful for that.”


Catch all the highlights of Van Kan’s victory at Leopard Creek.

This is something I don’t think I’ll forget until I’m like 90, I’ll always cherish this moment


215 Kyra van Kan (RSA) 72 71 72

224 Bobbi Brown (RSA) 75 78 71

225 Gia Raad (RSA) 79 70 76

227 Chanelle Wangari Mwangi (KEN) 76 74 77

228 Kaiyuree Moodley (RSA) 79 76 73

232 Zané Kleynhans (RSA) 80 77 75

232 Kesha Louw (RSA) 75 79 78

233 Naomi Wafula (KEN) 77 82 74

235 Margret Nyamukondiwa (ZIM) 81 79 75

235 Mercy Nyabande (KEN) 84 74 77

241 Kudzai Mandava (ZIM) 82 82 77

244 Serah Khanyereri (KEN) 82 83 79

247 Madina Iddy Hussein (TAN) 79 83 85

248 Sonia Bayahya (MAR) 76 88 84

250 Abir Taibi (MAR) 86 77 87

254 Vicky Elias (TAN) 81 83 90

255 Ashley Ouma (KEN) 81 88 86

155 Ellandri van Heerden (RSA) 76 79 RTD

81 Primross Chikwaya (ZIM) 81 RTD


Get an inside look at a historic event for the continent’s golfing pride as the top players came together at the world-class Leopard Creek to debut at the inaugural Africa Amateur Championship and Women's Amateur Invitational.

The Gauteng North golfer opened with a round of level-par 72 for a three-stroke lead and after following it up with rounds of 71 and 72 to finish as the only player under par, ensured the Africa Women’s Invitational would be added to an already bulging trophy cabinet.

“I have to admit that I felt more nervous this morning than finishing up,” said Van Kan.

“You know, anything can happen, especially around Leopard Creek. You have to play seriously good golf. You don’t usually shoot a low one on the last day, so I decided I would play boring golf and let everyone try to catch me.”

The solid strategy paid off for Van Kan.

Fellow GolfRSA National Squad members Bobbi Brown and reigning South African Women’s Amateur champion Gia Raad finished second and third on eight over and nine over respectively. Chanelle Wangari Mwangi from Kenya finished a further two strokes back in fourth, and Kaiyuree Moodley rounded out the top five on 12 over.

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Van Kan spent much of 2023 away from the game to concentrate on her studies in her final school year and will soon head to the US to take up a golf scholarship at the University of Tennessee. With the win, the former GolfRSA No 1 earned starts at The Women’s Amateur Championship, Final Qualifying for the AIG Women’s Open and The Investec South African Women’s Open in 2024, as well as at the Ladies European Tour’s Lalla Meryem Cup and Magical Kenya Ladies Open in 2025.

These invites will provide a major boost to a very promising career. “I’m really excited for these opportunities,” said Van Kan, last year’s leafing amateur in Investec South African Women’s Open.

“To be able to go over to the UK and try to get into the AIG Women’s Open is just fabulous. I’ll also play at the South African Women’s Open, which will be in Cape Town at Erinvale. I played it last year, so I was really hoping to be in the field again this year; I’m so excited. It’s always a privilege to be playing at special events. I can’t thank The R&A and GolfRSA enough.”


The champion describes what it’s like to play at Leopard Creek and win the inaugural Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational.

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