South Africa’s Martin Vorster carded a superb five under par 65 to storm clear of the field after the second round of The Junior Open at the Eden course at St Andrews.
The 16-year-old from Pinnacle Point Golf Club in Mossel Bay went into the round with a one-shot lead after an opening 66 but extended his advantage to five with four birdies on his outward nine and an eagle at his last hole where he hit a nine-iron into the green and then holed out from 30-feet.
“That was a nice way to finish,” he admitted.
“I hit the ball pretty much the same as yesterday, but the putter was definitely a bit hotter.
“I love playing links golf,” he added. “I would play it every day if could. It’s a big adjustment from what I’m used to but it’s great fun to play.”
Japanese and Danish challenge
Vorster’s nearest rivals going into the last day are 16-year-old Tsubasa Kajitani from Japan and 13-year-old Dane Adam Pedersen who both carded rounds of 68 for the second day in a row to share second place on four under par 136.
New Zealand’s Jayden Ford added a 70 to his opening 69 to move up into a share of fourth place with Argentina’s Abel Gallegos on one-under par 139 while England’s Joshua Berry remains the leading British and Irish player after a 72 which left him in a share of sixth place alongside Argentina’s Daniel Rodrigues and Thomas Heaton from Australia one shot further behind.
14-year old Kajitani from the Takebeno Mori Golf Club let her clubs do the talking early on with a fine round in which she briefly got to five under par for the championship with birdies on 11th, 16th and 18th, dropped shots when she turned for home on the 1st and 3rd but then played her last six holes in one under par.
13-year-old Pedersen also started his round from the 10th hole and went on to fire five birdies and three bogeys to give himself a great chance to win what would be the biggest title of his fledgling career.
His is a fitting story for a championship which this year attracted 142 golfers from 78 different countries around the world.
The dreadlocked Dane was adopted as a baby from Ethiopia and took up the game aged eight with the support of his six-handicap father Torben. His sole previous experience of playing links golf came from competing in a US Kids event down the coast at North Berwick but he has adapted well to the alien conditions and admits he is thoroughly enjoying his first trip to the Home of Golf.
“North Berwick was great but there is something very special about being here in St Andrews,” said Pedersen who has claimed two age group titles in his adopted homeland.
“I’ve been very steady for the last two days. Yesterday my approach shots were very good and I putted really well both days. I have scored lots of birdies. I think the secret to links golf is to avoid making big mistakes and that’s what I’ve managed to do so far.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
WAAP winner progresses
World No. 12 Atthaya Thitikul heads into the final round in ninth place on the leaderboard ten shots behind Vorster after adding a one over par 71 to her opening round of 70.
The 15-year-old Thai golfer won the inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship earlier this year in Singapore but her only previous experience of playing links golf came when she missed the cut at last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open at Kingsbarns.
“It’s a bit different to the sort of golf I play at home,” she said. “I didn’t get a practice round because my clubs were lost coming here so I’m pleased with how I have played so far.
Late in the day America’s Jackson Rivera equalled Voster’s 65 with a round which beat his opening 77 by seven shots and left him in a share of tenth place on two over par 142. “This has been a big learning curve for me,” he admitted. “Back where I come from in San Diego, California, you hit the ball straight at the flag, but I found out yesterday that’s not what you do over here.”
The shot of the day came from one of Pedersen’s playing partners Pia Perthen from Austria who had a hole-in-one on the 151-yard par-3 15th using an 8-iron.
The leading 80 players and those players tied for 80th place made the cut and progressed to the final round.