inside the ropes

It goes without saying that a world-class professional golfer, like a Rory McIlroy or a Tiger Woods, needs to “shape” the ball extraordinarily well – curve it with great precision either left to right with a fade, or right to left with a draw, depending on the demands of a particular hole or shot.

No doubt about it. In order to make millions in golf you need to be an expert shaper, and isn’t it interesting that one of South Africa’s finest young professionals, who is able to manufacture all sorts of ingenious shots with club in hand, should be aptly named Jayden Schaper?

“Yes, I guess I do shape the ball well,” admits the Ebotse Links birdie machine who is living up to his name and turned 23 this March. “My ball striking, even since I was a little guy and into my amateur days, has always been one of my strengths. If I come to a hole where it’s an advantage to shape a fade or a draw, it’s what I’m good at, so I’m really comfortable with the shot.” Or if it means hitting the ball high or low, or hard or soft, Schaper can deliver. He’s up there with the very best.

Schaper turned professional four years ago, aged 18, after a glittering amateur career. “Yes, I did have a lot of success as an amateur,” he concedes, “but as a pro I had to start from the bottom under pressure to perform.”

Well, perform he has, even though he is still without a win in the paid ranks. Although, aged just 19, he came close at the 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek where he tied for second behind winner and close friend Christiaan "Christo" Bezuidenhout.

In four years as a professional his high-quality ball striking has earned Schaper 20 top-10s. This speaks of plenty of consistency pretty much every time he tees it up, and this is something he is striving for. He was extremely consistent for four straight weeks from late November to the first half of December last year at the Sunshine Tour and DP World Tour co-sanctioned events. He tied for ninth on 271 at the Joburg Open at Houghton, shared fifth place on 281 at the Investec SA Open at Blair Atholl, was tie-seventh on 279 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, and placed sixth on 275 at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.

All that good golf inside just 24 days added up to a handy R2.8-million in prize money, and although he had chances to win which he was unable to take – especially at the SA Open where he led through 54 holes – Schaper has every reason to be pleased with his progress as a professional golfer.


Schaper discusses life on the road with his dad as a caddie.

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Highlights of Schaper's second-round 67 at the 2020 South African Open, where he was just one shot back heading into the weekend.

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“I feel my game is built on a strong base. I’m mentally in a good space. I’m confident, I’m positive and I’m playing consistently well. I don’t just want to make the cut, I want to be up there each week playing in the final group on Sunday. I just love being on Tour and competing hard.”

Being full time on the DP World Tour means plenty of travel to all corners of the world and Schaper has set himself some lofty goals for 2024, a minimum of 10 top-10s, a maiden win, a coveted spot at the end of season DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, and all this helping him achieve his No 1 target – earning his playing privileges for the PGA Tour in the US.

Schaper started golf early – really early when at the age of two his father Ryan handed him a plastic set of clubs.

“I was competitive straight out of the block,” he says. He was six when he started playing SA Kids Golf and would win over 50 titles over the years. He won overseas too, took part in two Junior Presidents Cups and, at home as an amateur, won dozens of provincial and national level opens as a teenager, a highlight being victory at the 2019 SA Stroke Play at De Zalze, shooting 67, a fabulous 63, 70 and 69 for a 19-under-par 269 aggregate.

I’m mentally in a good space. I’m confident, I’m positive and I’m playing consistently well… I just love being on Tour and competing hard


The Amateur champion chats about a tournament to remember.

Later that year he secured the biggest win of his unpaid career, the 2019 Junior Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. “That was extra special because my hero was Rory McIlroy and he won the Players Championship that same year on the same course, same tees and everything!”

Schaper is the only golfer to record the ‘Grand Slam’ of South African Junior National titles – the Nomads SA Boys U13, U15, U17 and U19 – and the SA U19 double when he lifted the strokeplay and matchplay titles at the age of 16.

He cannot say enough about the “incredible” support he has had over the years from his mother Yolanda and father Ryan (once his regular caddie), “and a whole bunch of other family members, including cousins and aunts and uncles”. He is also reunited at Ebotse with coach Grant Veenstra, swing guru for a number of top players, and they make a formidable looking team.

Schaper also places huge importance on gym. “To be a successful pro golfer today you need to be an athlete and I see myself as just that, an athlete – strong and in great shape.”

And, of course, a great “shaper” too.


See how Schaper used the slope to set up birdie at the 2023 Barbasol Championship.

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