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Mavundla targets full season thanks to Altron Big Easy Tour

Thanda Mavundla says he is excited at the prospect of playing a full season for the first time in many years, thanks to the Altron Big Easy Tour, and as such he has relocated to Gauteng for this purpose this year. Having turned pro in 2015, Mavundla has always shown glimpses of the good golfer he is but due to a lack of financial support, he often found himself having to return to Qualifying School to earn his playing privileges. After securing his Sunshine Tour card – via the Altron Vusi Ngubeni Tournament – for the current season, Mavundla was faced with an all-too-familiar problem: lack of funds to go to tournaments. “I had to return to Qualifying School because I didn’t play enough tournaments last season,” says Mavundla, “I just didn’t have the money to travel around. Now I have my card again but I couldn’t play in the Lombard Insurance and I can’t play the Zimbabwe Open because I don’t have the funds to travel. “But, luckily for me and maybe other players who are in my position, now we have a full schedule of the Altron Big Easy Tour and it’s really competitive. So, I decided this year that I should move to Gauteng so that even when I am unable to play all the Sunshine Tour events, at least, I can play a full season on the Altron Big Easy Tour.” Mavundla says the return of the Altron Big Easy Tour and the formation of the new Sunshine Tour Transformation Class which aims to provide a sustainable solution to the development of the professional careers of historically disadvantaged golfers and promote greater inclusion in the game, presents a great opportunity for golfers whose financial struggles prevent them from playing regularly. “The initiative of the Transformation Class, together with the playing opportunities the Altron Big Easy Tour, means one will not stay at home now,” notes Mavundla who hails from Inanda in KwaZulu Natal. “it means even without sponsors, I am going to be playing a lot of tournaments, mainly on the Big Easy. That is what most players want; to be able to go to tournaments and compete. Like many of his peers, Mavundla believes Altron, as the title sponsor of this circuit, will transform the Big Easy Tour into more than just a developmental circuit of the Sunshine Tour, but a competitive tour that many developmental tours fail to become. “The event at Blue Valley was evidence of what we can expect this season,” he says with a smile, “because of how professionally it was all set up. It felt like you are playing a Sunshine Tour or DP World Tour tournament with all the support a big tour can have. The competition will be even tougher because most of these guys are season competitors and some have won many things before. “The fields are going to be impressive and the level of golf will be high up there. That’s what we saw at Blue Valley and we know things will continue this way. I think now that Altron is the sponsor, this Tour will be even stronger and we can’t wait to go out there for the other events that are on the schedule.” Mavundla says he hopes that more corporate partners invest in the Altron Big Easy Tour so that talented players like him don’t sit at home because of financial struggles. The Big Easy Tour was founded in 2011 with support from Ernie Els and counts current international star Christiaan Bezuidenhout among its former Order of Merit winners.

Maas goes wire-to-wire to claim Altron Big Easy Tour title at Blue Valley

Christiaan Maas carded a final-round 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory in the first tournament of the Altron Big Easy Tour that was held at Blue Valley Golf Estate on Thursday. Following his first two rounds of 65 and 69, the GolfRSA Elite Squad member knew the tournament was his to lose as he stepped onto the first tee on day three. A third-round three-under-par 69 took his tournament total to 13-under-par and earned him a three-shot win over Bradley Diggeden. “I think I played well in the first round to set myself up nicely,” said an elated Maas after the round. “But yesterday wasn’t that good for me tee-to-green but my putter wasn’t too bad. Today, my putting was terrible. I think I had 35 putts today but luckily I’d set myself up very nicely on the first day to be in this position.” A glance at his scorecard doesn’t suggest a player struggling with the short stick despite the two bogeys he made on the day. He opened with pars on the first and second holes before a welcome birdie found its way onto his scorecard. He gave a shot away on the next hole but bounced back swiftly on the fifth; making a birdie that was followed by two pars. His second dropped shot was on the eighth and that was followed by a par as he turned level-par on the front nine. After the turn and three straight pars, the impressive amateur who is headed for the United Kingdom for a GolfRSA tour there next week made further gains. He made back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14 while his last birdie of the round was on 18 as he walked off victoriously. “Winning here gives me a lot of confidence as we go into the UK tour this Saturday,” Maas added, “so, to get this win just before that tour is a big boost for my confidence and hopefully, I will continue playing like this in the UK. “To be able to win on this Tour says something about the level of my game as well because the guys here play top-quality golf. You need to play three solid rounds to stand a chance and I’m glad I was able to do that this week.” Taking the second spot this week was Diggeden who was every bit as impressive too. A strong front nine on day three propelled him to a runner-up finish while veteran Ryan Tipping finished third on nine-under-par. The Big Easy Tour was founded in 2011 with support from Ernie Els and counts current international star Christiaan Bezuidenhout among its former Order of Merit winners.

Maas maintains Blue Valley lead despite “terrible round”

Amateur Christiaan Maas was unhappy with his round despite maintaining his lead after round two of the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament where he signed for three-under 69 to total 10-under to lead by three at Blue Valley Golf Estate on Wednesday. “Terrible!,” Maas said to sum up an eventful second round. “It was really bad; I didn’t hit anything close. My iron play was off today. I was pulling a lot of shots to the left; I was scared that if I don’t pull them then I would overcompensate and then push them a bit and that’s where most of the trouble was. “And then I hit it left, which left me with a couple of difficult chip-ins and putts. But I’ll go and work on this now and hopefully, tomorrow, it will all be a little better. I am happy with where I am right now and I have been in a couple of situations similar to this (where he is leading ahead of the final round). Tomorrow will be good fun and I’m looking forward to it.” He teed off from the 10th and made back-to-back pars before an early bogey crept onto his scorecard. He shrugged that bogey off and made a birdie on the par-five 13th, his fourth hole of the day. That joy, too, was short-lived because, after the par on 14, another drop followed. Once again, Maas was able to bounce back with a birdie on 16 and then another on 18, his ninth. That last birdie settled him for a bit as he cruised around collecting pars on his 10th and 11th holes when birdies were hard to come by. He made gains on 12, birdieing the par-five third hole of the course before dropping again. The par-five fifth hole presented the GolfRSA Elite Squad member with another opportunity to salvage what he described as a terrible round. An eagle there brought back the spring in his step and the birdie he made one hole later also brought much joy for one of the country’s leading amateurs. Once again, however, Maas dropped a shot but by now he’d done enough to seal a round of 69. Second on the leaderboard is the left-handed Ricky Hendler who has been enjoying good form since the start of the year. He also shot a 69 to get to seven-under for the week and trail by just three shots ahead of the final round. The best score on moving day was Luan Boshoff’s unblemished 67 which catapulted him to a share of third with James Mack at five-under for the tournament while Nicholaus Frade and Cameron Moralee tie fifth on three-under-par. The Big Easy Tour was founded in 2011 with support from Ernie Els and counts current international star Christiaan Bezuidenhout among its former Order of Merit winners.

Maas dazzles to a three-shot lead in Altron Big Easy Tour at Blue Valley

Christiaan Maas carded an impressive round of seven-under-par 65 on day one of the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament held at Blue Vally Golf Estate to take a three-shot lead on Tuesday. He opened his round with pars on the first two holes before birdieing the third. A par on the fourth hole preceded a smooth run of three birdies from the fifth through to the eighth. Another birdie got onto his card on the ninth as he turned in 31 and bogey-free. “I started off a bit slow,” Maas said after his round. “I started off with pars on the first and second; a two-putt birdie and then another par. Then, I made three birdies on the row. So, the front nine was good but the back nine was terrible. “It was terrible and really sloppy. I hit it to about four feet on 10 and missed the putt, then I got it close on 11 and made a birdie and two-putted on 12. On 13, I hit a good driver; got the bunker on the left and then hit it close to the flag but three-putted. It was not good on the back nine.” He may have felt that he played poorly on the homeward stretch, but the scorecard suggested a measured and disciplined outing by the GolfRSA Elite Squad member. After his birdie on the ninth, Maas made par on 10 and birdied the par-four 11th before making a par on the 12th. His only bogey of the day came on the par-five 13th while closing off with two birdies and a par to seal a round of 65. Chasing hard and just three shots off the pace is the trio of Bradley Diggeden, Ricky Hendler and James Mack who all shot 68s on Tuesday. Tying the fifth spot are eSwatini’s James Pennington and veteran Ryan Tipping on three-under-par. Leading amateur Christiaan Burke is in an eight-way share of the seventh position thanks to an opening round of two-under 70. The Big Easy Tour was founded in 2011 with support from Ernie Els and counts current international star Christiaan Bezuidenhout among its former Order of Merit winners.

Mitchell gets maiden win in Big Easy IGT Akasia

KwaZulu-Natal rookie Malcolm Mitchell overturned a three shot deficit as he cut through the competition to win his maiden Big Easy IGT Challenge title in style on Wednesday. The 23-year-old Kloof golfer had set himself the target of securing his first professional title this season and he duly delivered in the sixth event at Akasia Country Club. Mitchell carded five birdies in his last seven holes for a five-under-par 67 to finish the week on five under par, and a one-shot victory on five-under came yielded a big bonus – a R10 500 pay day that propelled him to the top of the Race to Sunshine Tour standings. “It’s a pretty good place to be with only the top six ranked players gaining playing privileges for the next Sunshine Tour season at the end of the series,” Mitchell grinned. Mitchell began the final round three off the pace and was still three shots adrift of joint overnight leaders Hennie O’Kennedy and Matthew Rushton after a bogey start, another drop shot at the seventh and brace of birdies on eight and nine. Birdie at the par three 12th delivered an unexpected kick and launched his incredible birdie haul down the stretch that saw him leave O’Kennedy and Rushton in his dust. “There wasn’t much wind today, so I went with a sand-wedge on 12 and I hit it eight foot left of the pin,” Mitchell said. “I holed a tough little left-to-righter for birdie and that delivered a nice punch of confidence. “I hit 8-iron front edge on the par-five 15th and two-putted for birdie. At the next par five, I drove it down the middle, hit 4-iron through the green and made another two-putt birdie. The short hole was 148 metres flag. I hit my wedge shot 10 feet behind the hole and made a downhill left-to-right slider for birdie. At 17, I hit a great 4-iron off the tee and had 50 metres in, so I wedged it to 10 feet and rolled in an uphill putt. “At the last hole, I hit it down the left to open up the hole and hit 7-iron just left of the green, but I had a very tricky chip. I pitched it 20 feet below the hole and my birdie putt finished just behind the hole, but that left me with a stress-free tap-in for par.” Mitchell reeled a trio of top 10 finishes in his first four starts, but he came into the tournament having missed the cut at State Mines last week. “I made a swing change, and became totally swing orientated at State Mines,” he said. “I blew out in the first nine holes and just struggled to get my mind-set right. “This week I just let the swing happen like I normally do, and it worked out for me. It’s gratifying to get this first win under the belt, because the course this week was very different to the softer courses we’ve played thus far. Being winter up here, the greens were very firm and you couldn’t attack the pins. You had to play strategically. “I’m pretty chuffed that I landed my first win under tough conditions. I’ve ticked a box that sets me up nicely for the rest of the season. No-one becomes a millionaire in a day, so this is the first step in the right direction.” O’Kennedy and Rushton both made a valiant effort on the back nine to catch Mitchell, but the pair had to settle for second and third respectively. Stellenbosch rookie O’Kennedy atoned for bogeys at 11 and 13 with an eagle at the par five 14th, which he backed up with birdies at 15 and 16 for a final round 71 and sole second on four-under. Rushton birdied 14 and 15, but successive bogeys at 16 and 17 put paid to his challenge. The Erinvale golfer signed for a 73 and finished in third on two-under.  

O’Kennedy shares pole position at Akasia

Stellenbosch Golf Club’s Hennie O’Kennedy surged up the leaderboard into a share of the lead with a flawless four-under 68 on day two of the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour #6 at Akasia Golf Club on Tuesday. The Boland rookie moved up from an overnight share of sixth to three-under overall, alongside co-leader Matthew Rushton, who carded 69. Sitting on two-under in second on his own is Gideon van der Vyver after a second round five-under 67, with Quintin Wilnach matching Van der Vyfer for the low round of the day to finish a further shot back. While co-leader Rushton – who plays out of neighbouring Erinvale - mixed an eagle at the par five fifth and a trio of birdies with two bogeys for a share of pole position, O’Kennedy submitted the only flawless card on the day. It was that kind of consistency that makes him a favourite to lift the trophy on Wednesday. “If I keep my same strategy it should serve me well in the final round, but it’s definitely going to be the guy who holes the most putts who walks off with the trophy. If I get the putter going I could shoot a low one,” O’Kennedy said. Starting his round on the 10th, O’Kennedy recorded birdies on the 12th and 14th holes and he made further gains at coming home six and seven. Alongside 14 pars, it was indeed an impressive effort on the hard and fast putting surfaces of the Pretoria layout. “I played pretty steadily, I hit most of the green in regulation and tried to two-putt most of them,” he said. “I hit a pretty good wedge shot to about three foot on the (par three) 12th. On the par five (14th), I hit a great drive and just had a wedge in. “I knocked it to 10-foot past the hole and just missed the eagle putt, and tapped in for birdie. Then I boxed about a 40-footer for my third birdie at the (par four) sixth. On my third last hole (the par four seventh), I hit an eight-iron to about a foot from the hole.” Navigating the tricky greens at Akasia requires full attention, something that will be at the forefront of O’Kennedy’s mind. “The greens are quite firm so you can’t really attack the pins, you have to be quite conservative. I just tried to remain focussed and find the middle of the greens,” he explained. “It’s not your normal type of greens where you can stop a wedge, you almost have to play to the correct part of the surfaces to have any type of run at birdie. Here you have to pitch it 10 or 15 feet short and run it up to the hole. If you want to get it close.” At 23, O’Kennedy is slighter older than a lot of the other players on the development circuit which prepares young professionals for the Sunshine Tour. But he has an advantage over most of the ‘young bucs’ in that he has already completed a three-year course - PGA of SA Diploma at Stellenbosch Golf Club through Swingfit. This allowed him to take an extra year before turning professional with the theory that it would better prepare him for life in the paid ranks. A tie for seventh at State Mines last week boosted O’Kennedy to seventh in the Road to Sunshine Tour, and victory or a top-three in this event would help hugely in the quest to finish the season inside the top-six to earn a full playing card for the next Sunshine Tour season. “That’s the ultimate prize and I definitely want to try and get into that top-six,” said the rookie. “If I do that I’ll be pretty happy, but then everyone on the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour is playing for the same prize. I just need a few good finishes to get myself in contention and it could start here this week.”  

Mansfield on a mission at Akasia

KwaZulu-Natal golfer Clayton Mansfield refused to linger on a double bogey finish that cost him a share of the lead, preferring to look ahead at what he needs to do over the next two rounds to win the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour #6 this week. Mansfield took his lead from Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Toto Thimba. “They are both Big Easy IGT and IGT Challenge Tour winners who have gone on and made it and if they taught us anything, it’s to persevere through the knocks and keep your eye on the end game,” said Mansfield. The 24-year-old from Durban signed for an even-par 72 in Monday’s opening round and he will start the second round at Akasia Golf Club two shots behind joint leaders Michael Schutz and Neale Woernhard from Switzerland. “The wind was really pumping on the ninth and I hit what looked like a great golf shot, but I watched as the wind took it and dumped it in the hazard,” Mansfield explained. “I could play it, so I chipped it on the edge of the green and three-putted for double. “Not the way you want to finish an otherwise great round, but if I’ve learned anything out here on the development circuits, it’s that there is no point crying over spilt milk.” Schutz turned four-under after wedging an eagle-three between birdies at 14 and 16 and he held the outright lead after a birdie at the par five eighth. He, too, made a double at the short ninth to set the clubhouse target at two-under. Woernhard was flawless in his outward loop and pencilled a birdie at 13 and an eagle at the par five 14th on his card to turn three-under. His back nine was another story as he dropped shots at one, two and four. The Swiss golfer countered with a trio of birdies, but he let another one slip a bogey at the par-five eighth to join Schutz at the top of the leaderboard. Mansfield reached the turn in one-under after a birdie at the par five 15th. “I hit a lot of fairways and greens going out, and sunk some great putts to keep the round going, but coming through the turn, the wind went into overdrive,” said the former GolfRSA National Squad member. “Everyone battled on that nine because it was so tough to judge your club selection, plus they had some pins tucked in really tough spots. I bogeyed the second, but I made up for it with two great birdies on seven and eight. “I hit a great 3-wood off the tee at seven and 8-iron to six feet. I went with the 3-wood again at the eight, hit the green in two with a 3-iron and two-putted for birdie. The double left a sour taste in my mouth, but it’s more important to keep my eye on the target.” The end goal is a full playing card for the Sunshine Tour. To bag the reward, Mansfield must finish the season in the top six on the Road to Sunshine Tour, but missed cuts in his last two starts has done him no favours. “I was third, but I dropped to sixth in the last two weeks, which isn’t good, but it’s not exactly a train-smash, either,” he said. “I had some personal issues to deal with and it definitely affected me adversely on the golf course. “I’m learning to deal with that stuff now and I’ll know how to handle it if I’m on the Sunshine Tour or when I get to the European Tour and that is a plus. We all have to learn to pay our dues and to take things one step at a time. My coach Shaun Coetzee has been a rock and I’m in a much better head-space this week. It showed out there on the course. So, next step is to put together a decent score in round two and see where it leaves me.” Matthew Ruston and Theunis Bezuidenhout both birdied the tough ninth to make it a three-way tie on two-under. Sunshine Tour rookie Hennie O’Kennedy, Coert Groenewald and Northern Ireland’s John McClean share sixth on one-over, while Alister de Kock and Dwayne Basson from the Gary Player School grabbed a seat on the 11-man bus at two-over.  

Smith seals State Mines triumph

Jason Smith burst from the blocks with a trio of birdies and kept his foot on the pedal to win his first Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour title of the season at State Mines Country Club on Wednesday. The Pretoria native, who began the final day three shots off the lead, fired a stunning five-under-par 67 to come from behind and triumph on 11-under 205. A pay-day worth R10 500 boosted Smith to second in the 2019 Road to Sunshine Tour Rankings and he trails leader Matthew Spacey by less than R3 000. The final round 67 also netted the Irene golfer a share of the low round honours with Jeremy Sharpe. Sharpe burst through the field with five birdies and an eagle to tie for second on seven-under with Quintin Wilsnach and overnight leader Michael-James Steyn. The pair registered respective rounds of 70 and 74. It was an action-packed final day, with Smith taking centre stage. The 25-year-old pitched it close on the first and second holes and knocked in makeable short putts to get off to a roaring start. “I played the third hole nicely all week, with a birdie in the first round and eagle in the second, so I was gunning for another birdie,” Smith said. “I hit a great drive and had 200 metres left, so I flushed a 6-iron in. With the wind behind, it flew the green, but I hit a great chip to up-and-down for birdie. “I’ve always played the front nine great and fell apart on the back nine, so that start really set me up for a winning round.” A fourth birdie at par three eighth and an eagle at the 10th saw Smith swoop into the lead. “That eagle was the highlight of my round. Man, holing that putt felt so good. I hit a great drive and 7-iron in from 185 metres to two foot,” the champion said. Steyn, meanwhile, made 12 straight pars and was still in touch after he boxed his first birdie putt of the day on the par four 12th. The Stellenbosch golfer had a chance to close to gap when Smith got too aggressive at the 14th and three-putted for bogey after missing the green on the left, but his challenge tanked when he made three bogeys on the bounce from 13. Smith drove the fairway bunker on the closing hole and a poor trap-shot left him in the long grass left of the green, but he was calmness personified as he chipped it to 12 foot and holed the par putt to secure an impressive four-shot triumph. “I wasn’t hitting it as close on the back nine as I’d done on the front, but  I sunk some pretty long par putts and that was key to the round,” Smith said. “That, and the mental side of it. “I was bitterly disappointed when I lost my Sunshine Tour card at the end of last season, but when I looked back, I detected a pattern. I would play really nicely for two rounds, and let myself down in the last round, because I let myself get distracted by what was happening around me. “If someone made three birdies in a row, I’d be worrying about what I needed to do. So the last couple of months has been all about the mental game. The swing is just the same as it was, but mentally I feel a lot better prepared. I didn’t even know what was happening with the rest of the field today. “I saw the leaderboard after 10 quite by mistake because I walked into it, but after that I just kept my head down and stayed in the moment. The first time I saw another leaderboard was when I asked the guys what was happening after I sunk the par putt on 18. I think this has been a really good new habit for me, because my consistency has benefit hugely by shutting out what happens around me. “This is a great result early in the season, and now I’m really keen to gun for that top six finish to get a full card for the Sunshine Tour. If I manage to win a second one, great, but golf is such a mental game; the main thing is not to get too caught up.”  

Coetzee throws down the gauntlet at State Mines

KwaZulu-Natal amateur Byron Coetzee laid down a marker for a first Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour win when he fired a sublime seven-under-par 65 to move within one-shot of 36-hole leader Michael-James Steyn at State Mines Country Club on Tuesday. Steyn and Maritz Wessels went the deepest in the first round and shared the lead with a pair of 66s. The Stellenbosch golfer didn’t strike the ball as well on day two, but his patience paid off. He retained pole position with a 69, while Wessels slipped to third on seven-under with a 71. Coetzee began the day on the more testing back nine that offered fewer opportunities to score, but a birdie start at the 10th set the tone for a productive day. He reeled in three more birdies to offset a bogey at the par-three 13th and turned three-under. he 19-The 19-year-old Kloof golfer showed his intent with three birdies on the bounce from the second and another pair towards the end of his homeward loop. This week marks the first time that the Hillcrest resident is competing on the Sunshine Tour’s premier development golf circuit and he was pretty pleased after playing himself into contention. “The plan is to go to the Sunshine Tour Q-School at the end of the season and I also want to try out Asian in December,” Coetzee said. “I figured I would tee it up on the Big Easy IGT Challenge to test the water and gain experience. “It went really well today and I think I’ll play a few more of these. If I do well enough to finish the season in the top six, I’d get automatic qualification for the Sunshine Tour. That would be huge bonus. “I started the day really nicely with a birdie, which put me in a positive frame of mind. I birdied 12, too, but I let one slip at 13. I managed to bounce back with two good birdies at 14 and 15 and parred my way to the turn. “I hit my drive down the left on the second and had about 60 metres to the pin. The lob-wedge bounced about five metres short of the flag and hit the pin. I thought it would drop for eagle, but it just popped back out.” Coetzee tapped it in for birdie, backed it up with a good two-putt birdie at the par five third and boxed another to go six-under on the par four fourth. “I was hoping to get to eight or nine under for the round, because I was so far back after a 71 in the first round,” he said. “I bogeyed the short hole, but rolled a long putt in for birdie at the sixth and made another one at seven. “I lipped out for birdie at eight, and made a good par save on nine to finish one off the pace. My ball striking off the tee was really good today and the putter was hot…. Hopefully I make a fast start in the final round to give myself a chance.” Steyn, meanwhile, reeled in half a dozen birdies, but he gave three shots back to the field. “I just didn’t hit the ball as well as I did in the first round,” said the 24-year-old. “I made a great up-and-down for birdie after missing the green at 10th and that put me in a positive mind-set for the day. “I hit two bad shots that ended in bogeys at 12 and 15, but I made amends with a crucial birdie at the 16th. I had a 20-foot putt and I knew I needed to make it to not lose any more shots to the field.” Level through the turn, Steyn birdied the first and erased a bogey at the second with a birdie at the par five third. “I birdied seven and nine for 69, but I took a lot of positives out of the round. I really had to grind it out and strangely, than has given me a lot of confidence. I definitely feel comfortable out there and I believe in myself more than I ever have before,” said Steyn. “Now it’s just time to get used to being up there and working with the through the pressure.”  

Steyn and Wessels lead the way at State Mines

Michael-James Steyn and Maritz Wessels topped a congested leaderboard at State Mines Country Club as they took Route 66 on the opening day of the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour #5 on Monday. Steyn set the clubhouse target at six under with loops of 33, but he was joined by former Big Easy Championship winner Wessels in the late afternoon. The leaders are two shots clear of former Sunshine Tour campaigner Quintin Wilsnach and rookie trio Zabastian de Jager, Jack Duthie and Luan Boshoff. Ebotse amateur Clinton Duncan birdied three of his last four holes join Nicholaus Frade, Andrew Carlsson and Desne van den Bergh on seven under. State Mines amateur Francois Blaauw also played himself into contention with a two-under-par 70 and he shares 11th spot with fellow amateur Dino Capazario, Marco de Beer, Gareth Sargent, Mike Maile, Theunis Bezuidenhout and Gary Player School of 2019 member Allister de Kock. Steyn spent the last two years coaching toddlers at pre-primary schools in the Fourways area, but the Stellenbosch native recently packed it in to devote more time to his career. “If I’ve learned anything in the last two years, it’s that talent alone is not enough these days,” said the 24-year-old. “I don’t have any regrets because the experience taught me so much, but it’s really tough to juggle a full-time job and a golf career. Something had to give. “I worked really hard at amateur level to reach the top and I’m going to have to focus all my energy on my game to make it to next level as a pro. So “I’m going to move back home at the end of the July to give it everything I’ve got.” Steyn burst from the blocks with a birdie-birdie start and was four-under after another brace of gains at six and seven. “I dropped a shot at nine, but I made a good up-and-down for birdie at 10 and then eagled the par four. Eleven is not really a driver hole, but I went for the green, finished just short and chipped it in for two,” said Steyn. “I hit 3-iron off the tee at the last par five (15) and made a regulation birdie, but I had a brain-fart on 17 and made a silly bogey. You have to take your medicine and move on. Good par finish to leave me in a nice position. I was surprised to be leading, though. I definitely haven’t given golf enough attention, so I didn’t expect to be in front, but like I said, it’s a nice start and a good platform to build on.” Like Steyn, Wessels is also looking at winging his way back onto the Sunshine Tour via the Big Easy IGT Challenge and IGT Challenge Tours. “I lost my card at the end of 2015, and I haven’t had much luck at the Q-Schools,” said the 31-year-old Waverley resident. “The two development circuits both offer an incentive to the top finishers at the end of season. It’s a chance to bypass Q-School, so it’s a huge opportunity.” Wessels picked up a trio of birdies in his first four holes and dipped four-under with a birdie 10. He gave a shot back to the field at 11, but recovered quickly with a gain at the par four 12th. An eagle and a birdie either side of a bogey at 17 saw him clock in with a 66. “I struggled off the tees, but my iron-play was really good and putted extremely well today,” he said. “I took advantage of some good approach shots early in the round but I also left quite a few birdies out there. I chipped in for the eagle at the par five, but then I got too greedy at the short hole and I hit it long. With the pin right at the back I was dead, so I chipped it up and two-putted for bogey. At 17, I knocked it close for two and boxed the five-footer for birdie. “I haven’t had good results in my first three Big Easys, and I need to land a few top three finishes to move up in rankings, if I have any hope of finishing top six at the end of the season. The game is coming into form at the right time and hopefully I can keep it going for two more rounds.”  

Spacey seals second Big Easy IGT success at Reading

Matthew Spacey overcame a stumbling start to win his second Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour title by one shot after a final round battle with Albert Venter and Hendrikus Stoop on a tense and dramatic day at Reading Country Club. It was not all plain sailing for the Dainfern golfer, who led the fourth event of the season by two shots after earlier rounds of 68 and 64. Spacey was on the ropes at one stage after a run of three bogeys from the fifth hole, but got himself back in contention with an eagle at the par five eighth. Two birdies on the back nine, coupled with bogeys from Venter and Stoop, saw the trio head down the last hole tied for the lead. Spacey drained a 35-foot birdie putt for a round of 70 and celebrated a one-shot victory on 11-under-par 202 after both his playing partners made pars. Stoop and Venter shared second after posting rounds of 68. Michael Pfeifer carded 67 to finish in fourth on nine under, while rookie Carlo Heunis signed for the same number to finish in fifth on his own a further stroke back. Win number two came with a R10 000 pay-day, which catapulted Spacey to the number one spot in the Road to Sunshine Tour. “I’m absolutely delighted,” said the 28 year old, “The goal was to win and although I made a sketchy start, I hung tough, turned things around with the eagle and was able to produce a strong finish.” It had been a game of cat and mouse throughout the day between Spacey, Venter and Stoop. Venter burst from the blocks with three birdies on the bounce, while Stoop followed a birdie start with a bogey at the second. Spacey carded four pars before getting on the bogey train. “I was between clubs, so went with a firm 9-iron at the fifth and flew the green by 20 metres,” Spacey said. “I chipped it to 15 foot, but didn’t make the par putt. At the sixth, I hit a good tee shot, and a punched a 9-iron just short, but couldn’t up-and-down for par. “At the next short hole, I pulled a wedge long and left and again, couldn’t up-and-down. I knew I needed to take advantage of the par five to get back in it. I hit a great drive down the middle and a pitching-wedge 15 foot short of the hole and boxed the eagle putt.” Stoop also made three at the eighth, and when Venter dropped shots around the turn, the fight was on. “It was a strange day,” said Spacey. “The wind gusted on and off and made club selection really tough. We all struggled, because you just didn’t know how the ball would behave. “The lead kept changing hands. Albert led, then Hendrikus joined him and then Carlo got in front of both of them with eagle at 12 and a birdie at 14. I just stayed patient down the back nine. At 11, I hit a punch 7 to three foot and boxed the putt that got me back to 10-under and I hit a lob-wedge to 15 foot behind the hole and made the birdie putt to take the lead on 11-under. Over the next few holes, Venter bogeyed 15 and birdied 17. Stoop dropped on 16 but birdied 17. Spacey bogeyed 15. “We were neck-in-neck heading down 18 and I was already thinking play-off,” Spacey said. “I hit a great drive and took a 9-iron in. It was a long, ropey putt but I had the line and I putt the perfect pace on the stroke. “My goal was to win, and I’m really pleased that I got there. The hard work starts now, though. It’s all about maintenance. I need to make cuts and finish in the top five and maybe won one or two more to make sure I finish in the top six to get my card. But first, we’re going out to crack open this bottle of Big Easy and toast my win.”  

Spacey blows into Big Easy IGT lead with 64

Matthew Spacey finished with flurry of birdies to lay down a marker for a coveted Sunshine Tour card with his best round of the season in the second round of the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tour #4 on Tuesday. The 28-year-old fired a flawless seven-under-par 64 to surge to a two-shot lead on 10-under 134 at Reading Country Club. Hendrikus Stoop also registered a 64 on a low scoring day in Alberton and will start the final round in joint second with Albert Venter, who returned a 67, while Reinhardt Blaauw returned a blemish-free 66 to finish four off the pace. But the low round honours belonged to Johannesburg rookie Mitchell Lightfoot. After opening with par at the first, the Glenvista golfer went on the tear and racked up seven birdies on the bounce for an outward loop of 29. Lightfoot made four more coming home to offset a brace of bogeys and a nine-under 62 earned him a seat on the seven-man bus at five under. “That was some golf that Mitchell played out there,” said Spacey. “He could be the man to beat if has another low one on Wednesday. “I am obviously pretty happy after 64. I played great all day and got pretty hot on the back nine. I really like this course. You have to be strategic off the tees, but if you’re hitting it well, it rewards you. You can gain shots on the three par fives, and most of the guys in the field can get on the green in two at the 12th. A couple of the par fours are also score-able, but the par threes are tough. They all have turtle-back greens, so you have to hit it at exactly the right distance and straight. If you don’t put it on the greens, it’s very tough to up-and-down for par.” After making the perfect start with a three-foot birdie putt at the 10th and a solid par at 11, Spacey drove it into the trees at the par five 12th. “I had a gap between the trees and I went for it,” he said. “I got it on the green and two-putted for birdie. After that I had a straight run of pars to reach the turn in 33. I had a chance at 14 where I missed a 15-footer for birdie and I hit it close at 17, but also missed the birdie putt. “I hit 2-iron off the tee at the first, and it was the perfect club. I had 120 metres in, and hit sand-wedge 15 foot short and boxed the putt for birdie.” Following a close call at the par five fourth and another birdie putt shaving the hole at the short fifth, Spacey’s flat stick caught fire. “I hit 2-iron, gap-wedge to six feet at six and left a 9-iron six feet short at the seventh,” he said. “I went with driver down the fairway at the eighth and hit 7-iron from 195 metres, but my second shot plugged in the upslope of the front bunker. “I hit a really good trap shot to up-and-down for birdie and at the ninth, I hit 8-iron to six feet and boxed the putt for a birdie finish.” Spacey is in the top six on the Road to Sunshine Tour rankings after the first three events and a win on Wednesday will greatly improve his chances of a card for the Sunshine Tour next year. “Last year the top 10 ranked players got cards, but they have reduced it to the top six,” he said. “The stakes are even higher and you have to perform every week to have a chance. I think my game has been going the right way for quite a while, to be honest.  I won the season-opener, finished third at Observatory and was sixth at Modderfontein. “I feel like I am playing well enough to win again, but I can only control my own game out there; I can’t do anything if someone goes hot. I’m looking forward to playing with Stoopie and Albert. Stoopie and I played for South Africa together in the amateur ranks. Allie was younger than us, but I’ve played with him a lot over the last year on the IGT and the Big Easy IGT Challenge Tours. We should have some fun and good contest.”  

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