KYRA VAN KAN
South Africa’s top ranked Kyra van Kan began 2022 with a sixth-place finish in the SA Women’s Stroke Play Championship and a runner-up finish in the SA Women’s Amateur Championship and the 16-year-old teenage golf prodigy never let up, capping a watershed season with her fifth victory in the KwaZulu-Natal Junior Championship in December.
Van Kan supported her upward trajectory with no less than six runner-up finishes on the local circuit, while also flying the flag for South Africa four times on the international stage.
Making her debut this January in the Hilton Grand Vacations ANNIKA Invitational presented by Rolex in Florida, Kyra holds the No 1 position on both the GolfRSA Open Amateur and Junior Rankings.
We chatted with the GolfRSA National Squad standout about her first international experiences abroad last year, her goals for this season and the secrets to her success in 2022.
Kyra, congratulations on a phenomenal season with so many highlights, and the crowning moment must be winning the Gilly Tebbutt Trophy as the leading Open Amateur for 2022 at the end of the SA Women’s Inter-Provincial. Have you had any time to reflect on this achievement?
Yes, the feeling is amazing. It is a surreal feeling to know that I have achieved such a special award. Winning the Gilly Tebbutt trophy really means the world to me because all the long hours and hard work that I put into my golf has finally paid off. I am extremely honoured to have my name on a trophy award alongside so many great golfers.
GolfRSA: You won the Ekurhuleni Open and Junior Championships, the Mpumalanga Women’s Open, the KwaZulu-Natal Amateur Women’s Golf Championship and the KwaZulu-Natal Junior Championships in 2022, and only finished outside the top five twice.
This speaks to a greater level of consistency – what has been the change for you to get to this point?
KVK: Before the golf season started, I set myself a list of goals that I wanted to achieve in 2022. These goals included placing in the top five, but as the year progressed and playing numerous tournaments, I did not pressure myself to do well and did not focus on where I would finish in the tournament.
I just took each hole on the course one at a time. I went out there, relaxed and trusted myself.
The more tournaments you play, the more confident you will feel and begin to realize your full potential.
I enjoy tournaments; I adore the feeling of butterflies you have when you stand on the first tee box or even the pressure you experience on the last hole when you are leading a tournament. Having a clear mindset and being surrounded by nature is what makes me feel calm and collected on the golf course.
There was quite a bit of international travel on your agenda, too. You were a member of the winning GolfRSA Junior Protea team at the 2022 All Africa Junior Golf Championship, you represented South Africa in the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup in Japan, and you played in two tournaments – the St Andrews Junior Girls Open and the R&A Girls Amateur – in Scotland.
What was it like to test yourself on the international stage and what did you enjoy the most?
The international travels I have had this year were unforgettable experiences. The All Africa Junior Golf Championship, held in Egypt, was my first international experience and putting on the green blazer for the first time put the brightest smile on my face because this was one of my biggest dreams.
TEAM SOUTH AFRICA BROUGHT HOME THE GOLD!
Next up, was the big one – the Toyota Junior Golf World Cup. It was a long trip to Japan, around forty hours of flying, bus riding and layovers. When we finally arrived at Cocopa Resort and Golf Course, everything about the place was indescribably perfect.
The golf course was in the best condition. When the tournament rolled around it was a wakeup call for me. I played with some of the top ranked girls in the world and realised how good my competition was. I asked the girls I played with a lot of questions, wondering how they got here to this impeccable level of golf. The tournament taught me a few lessons such as to not come to a big event such as this one with extremely grand expectations.
This trip was a long time away from home and my family. I learnt from this how to depend on myself more and trust the decisions I make. I needed to control my mindset more on the course because I did not really know anybody besides my teammates.
But I soon made good friends from Canada and Colombia. The weather in Japan was very humid compared to Egypt, and it rained for a few of the days while we were there.
One of my highlights from the trip was playing Table Tennis against an Olympic gold medallist and getting a single point. But what I will most certainly not forget is having sushi on my plate every night. My most memorable trip was playing at the Home of Golf in Scotland. I went with fellow National Squad player Gabbi Venter, and we became very close on that trip because it was just Gabbi, President Sarah Braude from Womens Golf South Africa and myself.
ST. ANDREWS TOWN
Entering the town of St Andrews gave me goosebumps because it was such a magical place and I felt so fortunate to represent my country there.
Unfortunately, my first tournament in Scotland felt like a bump in the road as I missed the cut and could not proceed to the Matchplay. However, I got to watch Gabbi lift the trophy and I could not have been happier for her.
We celebrated by eating an entire tub of Haagen Daaz ice cream that night. The conditions in Scotland were very tough, especially when the wind picked up. If the wind started to blow, you will suddenly discover parts of the golf course you did not know were there.