Andre de Decker
A fair way towards fame
by Jonathan Hobday
Bishops has produced some illustrious golfers over the years ­ not least of them such notables as Simon Hobday, Dorian Wharton-Hood and Brian Lefson.

Now there is a new name to watch: Andre de Decker.

Only 16 and now in Grade 10, Andre is something of a golfing prodigy and is already a fair way towards achieving golfing fame.

His record and achievements at junior level mark him as one of the most promising of the Western Cape's young "swingers". He has represented the province at every level of Junior Golf ­ Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18.

He is currently the reigning Under-16 South African champion, a title he pouched during the July holidays in the annual championship held at the Fish River Sun golf course, shooting rounds of 76 (in a howling gale), 73 and 70 to win by a shot.

Last year (2005), he tied for first in the Western Province Golf Foundation championships, only to lose in a play-off ­ and he had hoped to take the title this year. However, he only managed and eighth place finish. He made up for this disappointment by winning two of the Junior Open events, at Steenberg and at Royal Cape.

His junior golf performances earned him an invitation from the Western Province Golf Foundation to play in the Jack Newton Junior Invitational last year (2005), played in Sydney, Australia ­ and he excelled in his first appearance on the international stage. He shot a 69 in one of the rounds ­ "the highlight of my career so far," he says ­ which helped to finish 7th out of a top-class field of 26 players.

Strangely, the title of Bishops golf champion has eluded him so far: he finished tied first in 2004, losing on a count-out, and was second last year.. He plans to remedy this oversight when the championships are played in August.

Andre has been playing in the Bishops first league team since he was in Grade 8.

But Andre's prowess is not confined to junior golf. A member of two local golf clubs ­ Westlake and Clovelly ­ he currently plays off a plus-one handicap and has been turning out for Westlake¹s Premier League side for the last two years. He finished 7th in this year¹s club championships and has gone on to reach the final of the match-play section of the event, which is still to be played.

Andre also makes regular forays into he open events in the province and has recorded three top-10 finishes this year.

He is clearly a natural golfer and it has helped that he started the game very early in his life. Like the renowned Tiger Woods, he had club in hand when he was jus three years old, thanks to the enthusiasm of his uncle. He practises and plays regularly ­ three-to-four-times a week ­ and enters as many competitive events as he can. He rates his strengths as his short game and his iron-play, saying that his driving could be improved and his putting is "streaky".

This golfing weaponry has enabled him to shoot his lowest round ­ a 65 ­ in a recent Westlake club competition and a 66 in the Clovelly junior championships, which he won by 13 shots.

Andre's immediate ambition is to play his way into the South African junior side. The campaign for national honours started this year when he competed for a place in the national Under-16 side during the SA Junior Championships played at the Fish River Sun, His victory has earned him selection for the national Under-16 side which will play in a triangular international match at San Lameer golf course in September.

His national profile would also have been heightened by his inclusion in the Western Province Under-18 team of five players, which toured Holland during the same holidays. The team played a test against the Dutch and competed in the Dutch Junior Open championship. Despite being only 16, Andre emerged from the event as t

he top SA performer, finishing 22nd overall, with a score of four-over par. "I was very satisfied with that score," he says, "because it was a very tight course, narrow fairways with lots of bush on either side."

Quietly confident and unassuming, Andre appears to have the sort of mettle from which good ­ perhaps great ­ golfers are cast. He is not distracted from the task at hand by expansive dreams about the future (although he does concede golf might one day be a career). Like a game of golf, he takes life one shot, one hole, at a time.

He also plays a bit of squash and tennis and his leisure hours are best spent, he says, "hanging out with my friends", if possible on a beach and doing some body-boarding. A "fussy" eater, his favourite food is pasta. When Andre does dip his nose into a book, he is most likely to be enjoying thriller-writers like Dan Brown, author of the best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code.

Otherwise, most likely, he will be out there on some tee or fairway or green or practice range writing his own golfing story, The De Decker Code...

[Since this article was written, Andre has won the International Schools Golf Championship at Sun City by three strokes, and is now ranked number 1 in the Under 16 age group and number 2 in the Under 18 group!]

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