Cape Town — South African Amateur champion Wilco Nienaber will be making his professional debut on the European Challenge Tour on Thursday.
The 19-year-old former SA No 1 is moving on from a glittering amateur career after signing a multi-year agreement with PING, together with signing exclusive representation terms with Butler Bell Sports Ltd in the United Kingdom.
Nienaber makes his debut in the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge in France, closing a chapter of his golf career that saw him win no fewer than 21 amateur titles, including the SA Amateur Championship at King David Mowbray Golf Club earlier this year.
“My sincere thanks to Mr Johann Rupert and everyone involved at GolfRSA for guiding and supporting me to this juncture,” he said. “I am looking forward to my career as a professional and working hard to achieve success.”
Nienaber climbed to the top of the amateur rankings in South Africa on the back of a stellar 2017, when he won 11 times, including three international events.
In 2018, the teenager won four times and represented South Africa in the World Amateur Team Championships (Eisenhower Trophy) and retained the number one ranking despite a limited playing schedule in order to complete his education at Grey College in Bloemfontein.
Just weeks after losing a playoff for the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship (Brabazon Trophy) title at Frilford Heath, he was the leading qualifier at Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links in the strokeplay portion of the Amateur Championship that year – the first South African to accomplish this feat since qualifying was introduced in 1983.
GolfRSA CEO Grant Hepburn paid tribute to Nienaber on the eve of his professional debut.
“Wilco has been a member of the GolfRSA National Squad since its launch in 2015 and his commitment to the programme has been exemplary,” Hepburn said.
“He has been a regular winner at every amateur level and I have no doubt that he is ready to prove himself at the next level. On behalf of everyone at GolfRSA, I’d like to wish Wilco all the very best as he makes his debut in the professional ranks.”
Nienaber will be personally managed by founder Mark Bell, who has worked with several leading South African and global sportsmen.
Bell commented, “Wilco is an exciting prospect and a lovely young man. I’m looking forward to working with him, helping him realise his ambitions and opening a few doors for him along the way.”