Historic Nomads SA Boys victory for record-breaker Bennett
The future of South African golf looks positive with a host of talented amateurs coming through, but Daniel Bennett appears to be at the head of the queue.
Daniel Bennett shattered three South African golfing records as he marched to a wire-to-wire victory at the 2023 Nomads SA Boys Under 19 Stroke Play Championship at Pecanwood Golf and Country Estate on 29 March.
Bennett won by an incredible 21 shots as he shattered three South African scoring records in the process.
Thirty-six years after Mark McNulty won the Royal Swazi Sun Classic with a 72-hole tournament record of 29-under-par, Bennett penned his name in the history books as the new record holder with a 34-under-par, 254 victory.
Moreover, the GolfRSA National Squad member’s victory over Milnerton’s Matthew Lotz was a new winning margin record, one better than the 20-stroke record set by reigning Amateur champion Aldrich Potgieter at Royal Cape Golf Club just 12 months ago.
“It’s something special for me to win this way,” said the beaming champion. “As soon as I teed off on the first day, I never looked back. There are some great names on this trophy, like Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman, Dylan Frittelli, Thriston Lawrence and Jayden Schaper.
“I’m thrilled that I get to add my name to the list. If I can continue playing some good golf, hopefully I can reach the levels they have reached in the game.”
Bennett came into the week on the back of his Northern Amateur Match Play victory and immediately fired a shot across the bows of all the players as he reeled in 10 birdies for a flawless opening round of 10-under-par.
The 17-year-old Silver Lakes golfer was even more clinical in his second trip around the Jack Nicklaus signature course. He fired nine birdies and eagled the par-five 10th for a 36-hole total of 21-under-par 128, beating the previous record set by Hennie Otto in the 2010 Vodacom Championship at Pretoria Country Club by three shots.
Bennett dropped his first — and only shot — of the tournament in the third round. He immediately expunged the solitary bogey at the par-four fourth with a birdie on the fifth and racked up four more and he was the man to catch as a round of 68 gave him a 13-stroke lead on 25-under.
With Albert Kruger’s record 30-under-par 258 in the 2002 Eastern Gauteng Open at ERPM Golf Club in his sights, the Gauteng North junior was relentless, and it took him only 10 holes to match the magic number.
He fired three birdies on the trot from the first and racked up further gains on the fifth, seventh and 10th holes. Further birdies on 12, 15 and 16, for a final round 63, saw him put an exclamation mark behind a feat unmatched in South African golfing history.
The new record may have been set in an amateur event, but Bennett was delighted to learn that he matched the PGA Tour record of Cameron Smith, who out-duelled Jon Rahm to win the 2022 PGA Tournament of Champions on 34-under 258 at the par-73 Plantation Course at Hawaii.
“Wow, Cameron is such a big name and to know that I matched his record, it’s pretty amazing,” said an elated Bennett. “It feels really cool to match someone of that calibre.”
Even before the match play victory at Country Club Johannesburg, Bennett had shown signs of a player whose form was trending in the right direction.
He finished seventh in the African Amateur Stroke Play at Leopard Creek, a top 10 in the SA Stroke Play Championship and a quarterfinal spot in the SA Amateur Championship.
“I think my game has been heading in the right direction,” he added. “I changed my grip just before I went to the Northern Amateur and this week, just before the tournament teed off, I changed my putter.
“I am really happy with the changes I made because I can now see the results. I’ve been working really hard with my coach Nico van Rensburg at Silver Lakes; just grinding and working hard every week. So, this win is very special. This is a satisfying win for me.”
Bennett will be looking to carry the winning form into the Match Play Championship, which tees off on 30 March.
So, too will runner-up Lotz, who signed for rounds of 70, 67, 71 and 67.
GolfRSA National Squad member Dylan Kayne from Pearl Valley Golf Club and Pecanwood’s Luc Gavagnin, who shared third on 10-under-par, will also be among the 30 players who will contest the Match Play Championship over the next three days. DM
254 Daniel Bennett 62 61 68 63
275 Matthew Lotz 70 67 71 67
278 Luc Gavagnin 72 69 68 69; Dylan Kayne 66 67 71 74
279 Jack Buchanan 67 70 72 70; Charl Barnard 72 71 64 72
280 Pearce Lewin 65 66 79 70