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Nienaber makes huge impression on home soil

Nienaber makes huge impression on home soil

The South African proved he is far more than just a big hitter in an impressive performance.

Wilco Nienaber

"Borderline obscene" and "offensive" are not usually used as compliments - but Wilco Nienaber is not your usual golfer.

The now 20-year-old was well known in the amateur ranks in his homeland, claiming a slew of victories at age level and in senior golf before winning the South African Amateur Championship in 2019 and turning professional.

By that point he had already made an impressive European Tour debut, making the cut at the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg.

His European Challenge Tour debut in the paid ranks saw him finish just outside the top ten at Le Vaudreuil Challenge and he continued to impress before narrowly missing out on securing his European Tour card at the Qualifying School.

Despite his limited status on the 2020 Race to Dubai, Nienaber secured two top tens and when he arrived at Randpark Golf Club for the 2020 Joburg Open in the first event of the South African Swing, he was top of the pile in one noticeable stat.

His average driving distance of 337 yards - within one yard of the famously long U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau on the US PGA Tour - was the longest on the European Tour.

And he showed his remarkable power when he got to the fourth tee on day one, sending his drive 439 yards and prompting those incredulous reactions from Tony Johnstone and Alison Whitaker.

But he would go on to further prove he was not just a long drive specialist, following an opening 63 with a pair of 67s and turning in 32 to take a three shot lead into the final nine holes.

While he continued to keep himself right in the mix with a string of pars, Joachim B. Hansen showed real class to get back on level terms, and Nienaber looked in trouble before once again proving his short game skills can match his long with potentially the two putt of the season on the 15th.

A bogey-bogey finish from Nienaber would see the impressive Hansen claim a richly deserved victory, but the South African had made a big impression.

"I'm really happy," he said. "Finishing second does suck, winning is the nicest thing but all credit to JB, he really played well.

"I'm really happy with the way I played, just made two mistakes at the end and that's okay.

"It is my first top two finish on the European Tour so I'm really happy. Finishing second is not the best, you're the first loser, but I'm happy with the week."

Nienaber may not have that trophy in the cabinet just yet but, after just 23 European Tour appearances, he has proved he is a force to be reckoned with.

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