Wilco Nienaber, 18, medals at British Amateur as he ponders college golf

Courtesy of the R&A

Wilco Nienaber, 18, medals at British Amateur as he ponders college golf

Amateur

Wilco Nienaber, 18, medals at British Amateur as he ponders college golf

ABERDEEN, Scotland – Wilco Nienaber is seriously considering college golf next year. He may do so as the British Amateur champion.

The 18-year-old South African finished medallist on 8 under after 36-hole qualifying at Royal Aberdeen and Murcar. He bettered Norway’s Viktor Hovland by two shots after 4-under scores of 66 at Murcar and 67 at Royal Aberdeen. Canada’s Sam Meek finished third on 3 under.

Nienaber warmed up for his first British Amateur with second place in the English Open Amateur Stroke Play, the Brabazon Trophy. He’s already won twice in his homeland this year, the Western Province Open Amateur and the Free State Open Amateur. He had 11 wins last year. No wonder college coaches are desperate to sign the plus-5 handicapper from Bloemfontein.

“I hit the ball really nicely,” said Nienaber, the first South African medallist since qualifying was introduced in 1983. “I didn’t really miss a lot of greens. When I missed greens, I got up and down 90 percent of the time. I wasn’t really in trouble off the tee.”

Nienaber has had no trouble adapting to his first taste of links golf.

“We’ve got links courses but it’s not links golf like this. I’ve learned it’s a different game over here. Back home if it’s 180 meters, then you fly it straight there. Here if it’s 180 meters, then you’ve got to hit it 20 meters shorter and let it bounce in.”

Nienaber finishes high school in November and then will decide on college golf.

“I’ve had a fewer offers. I can’t really say which colleges. I want to finish my exams at the end of the year and then decide.”

Nienaber is bidding to become the second South African winner since Bobby Cole in 1966. Cole was 18 when he won.

“It’s a lucky number,” Nienaber said.

It’ll be a lucky college that signs the precocious South African.

Hovland returned a 5-under 65 at Murcar. The Oklahoma State player had a chance to tie Nienaber but bogeyed the final hole.

Three of the 23 American starters qualified. Arizona State’s Blake Wagoner was the highest finisher at T-14 on 2 over. Walker Lee, of Texas A&M, was a shot behind in T-18, while South Carolina’s Will Miles was equal 40th on 5 over.

Seventy–seven players on 6 over or better qualified.

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