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Pepler seals maiden Big Easy win at Soweto Country Club

Gerhard Pepler made up for the playoff loss he suffered four weeks ago at Reading Country Club by claiming a one-shot victory over Ryan Tipping in the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament which held at Soweto Country Club on Thursday. He carded a final-round three-under-par for a tournament total of nine-under-par 207. “This win makes that loss at Reading feel a lot better,” said a visibly relieved Pepler. “That loss at Reading jumped up in my mind as soon as I sunk that putt on 18. Coming into the final round, my thoughts were bouncing around a lot but the key was to stay in the moment.” Pepler started his round with birdies on the first, third and fifth holes to go three-under after five holes. Three pars followed through to the eighth before the 22-year old Serengeti Estates’ resident dropped two shots in three holes. “I started off nicely,” added Pepler, “and made some good putts; birdie on the first hole, and then I had an eagle-putt lip out on the third and then on five, I had a good birdie as well. But from there, it looked like I ran onto a brick wall or something; no birdies were there.” Despite making those two bogeys on nine and 11, Pepler recovered swiftly on 12 and made an important birdie there. Then, three more pars gave him some momentum as the memories of the previous drops were not yet expired. His patience paid off on 16 where he found another birdie, by which time the chasing Tipping was piling the pressure upon his younger final-group member. “On 16, Ryan hit it close and I knew I had to make it. I made a long putt downhill and it got in, which meant a lot to me. And then, the chip on 18 was a bit of an interesting one because there was a big slope and everything, and I judged it perfectly and I made the putt. “When I knew I’d made that putt and won the tournament, everything came out. All the stress of the last couple of months, all the pressure of the order of merit just came out of me.” For the second year now, Tipping will take home a runners-up finish, having lost to Franklin Manchest here last April. He will, however, find confidence in the way he has constantly played himself into contention on a few occasions. Ruan de Smidt’s five-under 67 was enough only to see him finish third, on five-under while Makhetha Mazibuko, who is a member of the Papwa Sewgolum Class of 2022/23, placed fourth on a total of four-under 212, this week. This is the seventh of 10 Altron Big Easy Tour tournaments scheduled for this season, with six different winners already crowned champions, including two amateurs from the GolfRSA National Elite Squad. 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.

Pepler in slender lead ahead of final round in Soweto

Gerhard Pepler fired in a second-round two-under-par 70 on Wednesday to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Altron Big Easy Tour event held at Soweto Country Club in Pimville. “Top of the leaderboard before the final round feels better than playing to make the cut every week,” said Pepler who has now relocated from Limpopo to Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estates. “but I will not change my game tomorrow; I started this week playing aggressively and attacking most flags and it seems to have worked, so there will be no change in strategy.” A faulty start saw him drop on the first hole but Pepler recovered with a par on the second before birdieing the third. He made another par on the fourth before making his second birdie on the front stretch – this time on the fifth. After four straight pars, Pepler found another birdie on the 10th and another on the 12th. His only drop on the homeward stretch came on the 15th hole but Pepler had already done enough to seal a round of 70 to assume the top position ahead of the final round. “This course is tough because you must hit the greens in regulation,” added Pepler of how he intends to approach the final round. “You can hit driver everywhere but you must stay in the fairway, that helps. You also need to make your putts, of course, but you always need to keep it in play. “Closer to the end of the round, I might want to play a little bit defensive but that’s not going to be my thinking at the beginning. I’ve been attacking the whole week and when I tried to play defensive, I seemed to make a lot of mistakes, so it’s going to be an all-out attack in the beginning and we’ll see how the round goes and if I must change to defence.” He leads Ryan Tipping by a single stroke, with the veteran Tipping still harbouring the memories of his loss to Franklin Manchest here in April last year. “The front nine is a lot tougher than the back and I was pleased with nine straight pars there,” said Tipping, “My goal was to get through there level-par or minus one and have a go at the back nine. I think did what I went out to do.” Members of the Papwa Sewgolum Class of 2022/23 Musiwalo Nethunzwi – a member here – and Makhetha Mazibuko will feel they have a shot at glory in Soweto. They are tied fourth on four-under and just two shots back after 36 holes. “This is my home course and I always have a few holes where I know I will make a birdie or two,” said Nethunzwi ahead of the final round. “I don’t mind chasing because it challenges my mental strength.” This is the seventh of 10 Altron Big Easy Tour tournaments scheduled for this season, with six different winners already crowned champions, including two amateurs from the GolfRSA National Elite Squad. 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.

Mazibuko battles neck injury to co-lead in Soweto

Makhetha Mazibuko battled through a niggling neck injury to shoot an opening round of four-under-par 68 to co-lead by one in the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament held at Soweto Country Club. “Four-under is a good score,” said an elated Mazibuko, “because I didn’t think I’d finish the round because I have a neck injury I picked up during the pro-am. I thought I played well on the first nine until I dropped 17 and 18.” Mazibuko started from the 10th where he made par. He dropped on 11, his second, but recovered with a birdie on the next three holes. A par on 15 preceded a birdie before back-to-back bogeys made it onto Mazibuko’s card. A solid run on the back nine yielded three straight pars for the Bloemfontein Golf Club player as Mazibuko battled to keep the big numbers from his card. Then, he found joy on the fourth hole, making a welcome birdie there. That was followed by two more – on six and eight – as Mazibuko went bogey-free on that stretch. “I love this course but I don’t play it as often as I would like,” added Mazibuko who is a member of the recently-launched Sunshine Tour Transformation initiative known as the Papwa Sewgolum Transformation Class. “I play here sometimes with Thabang (Simon) on weekends and I think it’s a tough course. I know where the dangers are. But overall, I think it was all about driving the ball well and being smart with the approach shots. “The main thing here is to hit good tee shots but I was a little bit aggressive on some holes. The lesser the distance you have, the better. And my putting was good too, so I think I played well.” Mazibuko ties the top spot with fellow member of the Papwa Sewgolum Class, Jacquin Hess, Gerard Pepler and Noel Anderson after they all shot 68s. “It was fun out there,” said Pepler, “I had a nice chip-in on hole 13 which turned things around for me and from there I just made some putts. The key is to go with the flow, which I will do in the second round. My putting and my driving were solid today. I hit a lot of fairways and made some good putts. We finished well and we go again on day two.” The Papwa Sewgolum Class of 2022/23 is created to drive transformation and allow for greater inclusion. The programme offers players of colour greater opportunities to compete on the Sunshine Tour and Altron Big Easy Tour through the expanded schedules and increased prize money offered on both these tours and with monthly financial assistance towards their tournament golf expenses, including their tournament entry fees. The Transformation Class which comprises 61 Black professionals had a few other representatives in the top 10 leading players after round one as Siyanda Mwandla’s three-under 69 earned him a share of fifth with veteran Ryan Tipping while the trio of Irvin Mazibuko, Franklin Manchest and Evans Vukeya find themselves in a six-way share of the seventh spot after rounds of 70. “This is no mickey mouse course,” said Mwandla after his round, “so I am happy with my start. I putted well and that helped a lot. I’ve been playing well and it’s all to do with hard work. My coach and I have been working on a few things and I can see them coming together. But it’s a process, a long road and it won’t come together overnight. But I am happy with where I am.” 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.

Jarvis rallies to claim a come-from-behind win at Kyalami

Amateur Casey Jarvis carded a final-round six-under-par 66 on Wednesday to claim a come-from-behind win on 15-under in the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament that was played at Kyalami Country Club this week. Ranked the sixth-best amateur in South Africa, Jarvis was a shot off the pace coming into the final round and credited some brilliant approach shots for his impressive comeback. “The strategy was the same as the first two days,” said Jarvis. “I have been hitting the ball well but my approach shots have been really good this week, so I just kept giving myself chances. I was struggling a bit with the putter on the first nine but I just told myself to stay patient and they fell in on the back nine.” Jarvis made a birdie to get his round going on Wednesday but a bogey followed immediately on the second hole. He was able to bring it back to one-under with a birdie on the fourth hole which proved to be his last birdie on the front nine to underline the struggle he mentions. After his birdie on four, Jarvis, who plays out of State Mines Country Club went seven holes without dropping a shot, making pars to keep things steady. A healthy run of birdies then followed – from the 12th through to the 15th and Jarvis was not done yet. He made pars on 16 and 17 before closing off with a birdie to seal a round of 66 which earned him a four-stroke victory over Zambia’s Dayne Moore who was leading coming into the final round. “I didn’t get upset with myself over the bogey I made,” Jarvis added, “it was a short one and I just told myself that I needed to stay patient and then they started falling in. I’ve been hitting it well all week. I was solid tee-to-green and, obviously, a few putts dropped, so I am extremely proud of myself for the effort out there this week. “I just kept playing the game I was playing the whole week and I didn’t focus on what Dayne (Moore) was doing and it seemed to have worked.” Jarvis is the second amateur to claim victory on the Altron Big Easy Tour this season after Christiaan Maas won the first event of the season at Blue Valley Golf Estate near Centurion in May. “This win means a lot to me because I can get a few amateur world ranking points,” Jarvis said. “I’m just proud of myself. It’s good to win again. A big thanks to GolfRSA for everything they are doing for us; they give us the opportunity and exposure to come out here and play against these professionals – most of them are Sunshine Tour players. It’s really big for us amateurs to compete here because it turns our game up when you compete with the professionals out here.” Moore fired in back-to-back 67s in the first two rounds but his final round of 71 was not enough to see him all the way and he takes home a runners-up finish this week. Sentanio Mannie secured his first top-five finish of the season, thanks to his solo third-place finish this week. He shot eight-under 208 this week. Luan Boshoff and Sunshine Tour player Chris Swanepoel share fourth on seven-under for the tournament. 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.

Solid short game helps Moore to top of the leaderboard at Kyalami

Zambia’s Dayne Moore says a solid short game helped him to his second successive 67 of the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament which is being played at Kyalami Country Club where he currently leads by one shot ahead of the final round. Moore is 10-under-par for the tournament and a shot ahead of State Mines Country Club amateur, Casey Jarvis. “I hit some really good iron shots this week,” said Moore. “I was solid off the tee too. My strength is my chipping and putting and I think it all came together this week. I feel I need to hit more fairways and more greens but it’s a work in progress and I’m just happy to have played well these two days.” Moore played solidly on the front nine and he made three birdies on that stretch – on the first, the fourth and seventh holes. A bogey on the 10th made it onto his card but Moore bounced back expertly; making three birdies on the trot. He held things tight after that, taking three pars in the next three holes before he dropped a shot on 17, his second bogey of the day. Once again, the Ndola Golf Club player was able to make up for that dropped shot; birdieing the last to seal a round of five-under 67. The Zambian has played four Altron Big Easy Tour events this season, finishing 16th, 25th, ninth and 13th respectively in those events, something he attributes to a trip he made to the United State. “My coach is over there (USA) and we’ve been planning to get together for a while because there were elements of my game I felt needed to be worked on,” Moore revealed after his round. “So, after the last season of the Sunshine Tour – during the break – I decided to skip the first two tournaments and go see him because even though I have been playing decently, I still want to be competitive. “That trip was much needed because it’s improved a lot of what I wanted to work on. I needed to work on my technique; the swing, my take-away wasn’t what I wanted it to be and my lower body, transitioning better on the downswing. I’m still getting used to it but I am happy that there is progress. There are some flashes here and there and I am happy with it.” Now, heading into the final round perched at the summit of the leaderboard, albeit by a slender lead, Moore is clear about what he needs to do to compete for honours in the final round here at Kyalami. “It’s exciting to go into the final round leading,” added Moore. “Obviously, you want to get into those positions a lot more, even on the Sunshine Tour, because the only way is up, from there. It’s the sort of experience you cannot pay for. So, tomorrow is the same game plan. I have been aggressive where I needed to be and a bit safe where I needed to be safe. Fairways and greens.” Moore will know all about Jarvis after the amateur’s exploits in the last two years and will want to bring his best game on Wednesday. Jarvis is but a shot adrift and second on the leaderboard, a position he is familiar with. Luke Trocado is third on eight-under while the duo of Musiwalo Nethunzwi and overnight co-leader, Chris Swanepoel share fourth on seven-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.

Froneman and Swanepoel share first-round lead at Kyalami

Jason Froneman says he was happy with his putting on Monday as he raced to a blemish-free 66 to share the lead with Chris Swanepoel on day one of the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament held at Kyalami Country Club. The Kempton Park Golf Club player has missed three cuts in the last five tournaments but returned a rejuvenated man in Kyalami where he navigated the course with relative ease en route to the summit of the leaderboard. “My golf swing has been a little bit up and down this season,” noted Froneman. “I’ve been swinging it well but I have not been getting the scores together. It hasn’t been far, however, and I have been pushing through. I am happy with how I have played and how the tournaments have been organised. “Today, the whole game just came together. The putter was really on point and I putted really nicely, and if I had a stray shot, I stayed patient and made the up-and-down that I needed to make and carried on. The greens are rolling decently and if I hit it on the right line, it went in.” Froneman teed off from the 10th, making three straight pars before going on a three-birdie run from the 13th through to the 15th. Another birdie followed, this time on the 17th, as Froneman turned in 32 and bogey-free. Froneman was happy to play it safe where he didn’t see opportunities and after the turn, he made four back-to-back pars to keep things solid and avoid the big numbers. He was rewarded with a birdie on the fifth, his 14th hole of the day before three more pars preceded his sixth birdie of the day on the last. “When you start strong, you get a little boost to your confidence,” Froneman said of his opening round this week. “because you don’t feel you need to chase from the get-go. In that sense, it kind of makes things easier going forward. But there are two more rounds to go still and hopefully, all goes well for the next two rounds and carries on like it is going.” Swanepoel also fired in a 66, albeit with a solitary bogey which visited his card on his very first hole of the day. While he was happy with his start, the experienced campaigner was quick to note that it’s not always how you start that matters, but rather how you finish. “You can’t win it on the first day but it’s always nice to start well in a tournament, said Swanepoel after his round. “I hit a bad 3-iron on the first and then I missed the putt but I wasn’t too worried because I still had 17 holes to go. I think I played well today and it’s nice to play yourself into position early on because you never know what might happen. I putted well today and I chipped well also, so I am happy with my start.” Zambia’s Dayne Moore signed for a five-under 67 to take solo third on the leaderboard while the duo of Slade Pickering and Luke Trocado share the fifth spot after rounds of 68 each. State Mines Country Club player Vaughn van Deventer is in a seven-way share of the sixth spot, along with Adam Breen, amateur Casey Jarvis, Zimbabwe’s Stuart Krog, DK Kim, Matthew Spacey, member of the Papwa Sewgulom Class, Musiwalo Nethunzwi and Francois van Staden – all on three-under-par 69. 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.

Hendler finally gets his Altron Big Easy Tour win

Ricky Hendler finally got his breakthrough win on the Altron Big Easy Tour after his final-round 70 earned him a one-shot victory over Reinhardt Blaauw at Houghton Golf Club on Thursday, and said it was down to changes he made in his strategy. The left-handed Dainfern Golf Club member has built a reputation of being one of the most aggressive players on the Altron Big Easy Tour circuit, a trait he feels has been costly in the last four tournaments. “I have been in contention four weeks in a row now,” Hendler noted after his round in Houghton, “but I haven’t gotten the job done. I don’t feel like I’ve been playing badly but I just think that maybe my strategy hasn’t been the best. Sometimes I get a bit too aggressive, which is fine in the first round – you come to shoot a low one and get yourself into it – but in the final round there are so many nerves and you’re worried about what everyone else is doing and you just want to win so badly. “So, today, I just told myself to play not conservatively but rather conservatively aggressive; pick targets. I said to myself ‘you don’t have to hit driver everywhere, give yourself 116 in if you have to. 116 in is my bread and butter. It proved to be a good strategy.” Hendler was in a three-way share of the lead going into the final round. He was three-under through the first six holes thanks to birdies on the first, the fifth and sixth holes, which gave him a perfect start in the final round. He dropped on seven and had to wait until the ninth hole for another birdie as he turned in 33. He backed that birdie up with another on 10 but he gave those gains away on the next hole. After a par-save on hole 12, Hendler made another bogey on 13 and then a double-bogey on the par-five 15. He found a welcomed birdie on the 16th before driving the green on the par-four 17th for an opportunity to make an eagle. Hendler missed that eagle-putt but was happy to walk away with a birdie there. “Today I just wanted to keep the ball in front of me and not make too many mistakes,” he said, “and as I said, from 116 I would rate myself against anyone. So, I just thought to myself ‘keep it in play and give yourself a lot of iron shots in. You’re not going to have to shoot 64 to win. Two, or three or four-under will get the job done. “I’m just so happy to finally get it done. It’s been a lot of hard work. I’ve just missed my card at Qualifying School. I haven’t been playing professional golf that long, so I’m really lucky. I have a whole support team around me that believes in me, and I’m starting to believe in myself more and more every week. I can’t wait to be on the Sunshine Tour next year. “This Big Easy Tour is just amazing for giving us this platform to play every week and compete against really good players. I feel like if I do get my Sunshine Tour card next year, I will be ready.” Prior to his win here, Hendler came fourth at Blue Valley, second at Huddle Park, seventh and Reading and fifth at Randpark last week. 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.

Hess, Hendler and De Smidt in three-way share of lead at Houghton

Ruan de Smidt carded a near-perfect round of three-under-par 69 on day two of the Altron Big Easy Tour to total four-under for the week and force himself into a three-way share of the lead ahead of the final round at Houghton Golf Club. The Krugersdorp Golf Club player was four shots off Jacquin Hess’ lead after round one and with the weather a lot warmer than it was on Tuesday when the tournament started, De Smidt seized his opportunity to move up the leaderboard. “It was a little of both good and bad this week,” De Smidt noted, “because it felt like yesterday I hit it really well but putted horribly. Today, for the first nine holes, I hit it really well again and I was two-under at the turn. Back nine, I hit it probably the worst I have hit it all year and went one-under but all in all, I am happy with the work this week.” De Smidt birdied the third and sixth holes but gave a shot away on the eighth hole. He shrugged that solitary bogey off immediately and made up for it with a birdie before the turn. He then made seven straight pars as he played cautiously to avoid any big numbers that threatened to get onto his scorecard. His patience was finally rewarded when he birdied the par-four 17th to seal a round of 69 and play himself into contention going into the final round here. “I think tomorrow I just have to go out and hit it better than I did today on the back nine,” said de Smidt of his approach to the final round. “If I had it better than I did in the first 27 holes, and just putt half decently, then I’m sure I will be in with a chance, at least.” Hess shot a 73 but that was enough to see him retain his spot atop the leaderboard, albeit with companions. His second round was characterised by three bogeys and two birdies, numbers he will want to rectify in the final round if he is to claim his second title on this circuit. Dainfern Golf Club’s Ricky Hendler finds himself in contention yet again, thanks to his hard-fought one-under 73 which took his tournament total to four-under. He made four birdies and three bogeys en route to his 71 and will be looking for an improved performance on day three if he is to challenge for honours on Thursday. “I’m playing great golf,” Hendler said after his round, “but I just think I played the par-fives pretty poorly. But I have been in this situation four weeks in a row now, so I am going to think very hard about the strategy for tomorrow and really focus on my routine. I have to make sure that my caddie and I are on the same page and try to commit to every shot and hopefully, at the end of it, it’s going to be enough. But I won’t really worry about anybody else but myself.” Tying fourth and just a shot off the lead, member of the Papwa Sewgolum Class Nikhil Rama and Portugal’s Carlos Laranja will feel that the opportunity is there for either of them to ascend to the summit when all is said and done here at Houghton Golf Club. On a tournament total of two-under, Nicholaus Frade and Samuel Simpson are in a share of sixth while DK Kim, Richard Kruger, Luan Boshoff, Dayne Moore, Keelan van Wyk and Zabastian de Jager share the eighth spot on one-under for the week. 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.

Sandys overcomes misfortune to compete on the Altron Big Easy Tour

It is not how many times you fall that matters but how many times you rise. This old adage rings true for Sunshine Tour veteran, Omar Sandys, who has seen it all on Tour. With a professional career spanning 23 years, the Schoeman Park Golf Club member has been one of the mainstays on both the Sunshine Tour and the Altron Big Easy Tour until a near-fatal accident threatened to abruptly end his long career last year. “I was coaching 14 kids in the North West,” Sandys recalls, “my work now is coaching kids and changing their lives. On my way back, after 6 pm, there was a steenbok in the road and it was moving out of the way but for some reason when it got closer, it jumped under my front and back wheel on the left. “Before I knew it, I was on the side of the road where the tree was about 15 meters from me. I hit the tree, my body was just past the tree and the car tilted with the roof of the back seat into the tree. When the car landed on its tires, trying to get my breath back, I said to myself: “Omar you need to do something now so I went straight down and I prayed. I had broken my collar bone and I could not move.” Shocked and afraid, Sandys’ long career looked set for an unceremonious end. “I couldn’t stand straight,” adds Sandys. “and after 12 days I went home, walking with my hands on my knees because some tissues in my ribs got injured. But on one Saturday morning, my wife went outside to check the laundry, my daughter went to check the water and the oil of the car and my son went to swing his golf club because he was on his way to play golf. When they came back, I was dancing.” Not for the first time in his life, Sandys had risen through adversity. His career on the Sunshine Tour has been defined by joy, struggle, pain and survival. In the latter years of his career, Sandys has often found himself having to battle through Qualifying School and the Vusi Ngubeni Tournament to earn his playing privileges. But he never let up. “The one thing that’s kept me going, other than faith, is knowing that a man is defined by how many times he rises above problems, not how many times he falls because of them,” he says. “I’m still walking with the catheter even now but I will not let these struggles get in my way. The main thing for me was to get back on the Sunshine Tour and to also show the kids that I’m coaching that it’s not how you fall but how you stand up. How you fight forward and have a better mission in the future. “Even getting back on the Big Easy Tour is to say to all the youngsters who are on the Big Easy Tour, especially those of colour, there’s a lot of things that came through for them, a lot of good things. I want them to stop complaining and go out there and do what they’re here for which is swinging the golf club and playing golf. Altron has come on board and there is now more to play for in terms of money and opportunities. Make use of the opportunity.” When he is not teeing it up on the Altron Big Easy Tour, Sandys is happy to spend hours at his golf range where he teaches golf to young girls and boys in the North West. “We use golf to change children’s lives,” Sandys explains, “we’re trying to give the kids more opportunities and change their golf and their whole world and also give them the opportunity that my kids are having.” Having turned professional back in 1999, Sandys boasts 366 starts on the Sunshine Tour while making over a million-rand in earnings while his best finish on the Order of Merit is the 18th position he obtained in the 2007 season.

Hess leads by two at Houghton Golf Club

Jacquin Hess credited a combination of sound decision-making and a brilliant wedge game for his round of 67 on day one of the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament that is underway at Houghton Golf Club. The Robertson Golf Club member is currently two strokes ahead of the field after the opening round. “I was a bit disappointed with how I played the back nine at Randpark last week,” reveals Hess, “so I sent my caddie a short motivational video to watch to get us ready for this week. But it’s all down to good decision-making between myself and my caddie, you know. If you’re not clear about how you approach the game, it gets messy very fast. But today, we were clear about every shot we chose and it’s getting better.” Hess had a shaky start to the round, by his own admission; going one-over after the first three holes. He was quick to rectify this, however, as he birdied the next four holes to move up the leaderboard. He parred the next three holes before finding joy on the 11th, birdieing that hole to take it to four-under with seven holes to play. Three more pars were followed by a brace of birdies which Hess was happy to welcome as he set his sights on the top spot. A par-save on 17 was followed by a bogey on the last, much to Hess’ disappointment. “I think we were not clear enough on that last hole,” Hess continued. “My caddie wanted me to tee from the right and I wanted to tee from the left and then I didn’t commit to the shot. The ball got blocked out by the tree and I had to take my bogey there. “I’ve put in a lot of work in the last three years and I’m still learning. But I am beginning to see some rewards now and I have a great caddie, one of the very best on the Sunshine Tour and we keep getting better. We are making good decisions and it was important today because this is a tricky layout. If you’re out of position here, you are going to struggle, even if you hit the greens it’s not easy.” With eight players just two shots off the pace, including the ever-green Ricky Hendler who has been in scintillating form and Nicholaus Frade who played well too last week at Randpark, Hess knows that the next two rounds will be important if he is to claim his second Altron Big Easy Tour title sooner rather than later. “It’s important to have a great start in these tournaments and I think Marvin (his caddie) and I started well,” he said, “we learn together. The plan is to win on the Sunshine Tour this season but it would be nice to win another Big Easy title. We were in contention at Reading until the second last hole and last week it was the same thing “I know it takes a lot of patience but we are getting better. We are not going to force things because that’s when you get inside your own head and start making wrong decisions which may cost you a tournament.” Frade, Hendler, last week’s winner Adam Breen, Gerhard Pepler, Richard Kruger, Samuel Simpson, Portugal’s Carlos Laranja and member of the recently-launched Papwa Sewgolum Class Nikhil Rama share the second spot on the leaderboard, thanks to rounds 69 for each. 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.

Breen rejoices in ‘surprise’ Big Easy win at Randpark

Adam Breen carded an even-par final round of the Altron Big Easy Tour to claim a come-from-behind one-shot victory on one-over-par in testing conditions at Randpark Golf Club on Thursday. “I’m very relieved and excited and surprised,” said an elated Breen. “I was three back today and I didn’t really think that level-par would give me a chance and when I got to the 18th box I heard I was tied for the lead, I was surprised. Just very relieved and quite surprised. “I haven’t won much in my career. The last proper win I had was probably when I was a junior. This is definitely number one. I’ve won a bunch of club championships but this is next level.” Breen was three shots off the pace set by Ricky Hendler and Nicholaus Frade when the final round got underway in wet and windy Firethorn layout at Randpark and had it all to do in order to make the climb up the leaderboard. With Hendler and Frade struggling like everyone else in the field, Breen knew he had an opportunity to work his way up the leaderboard and he grabbed it with both hands; making crucial par-saves while giving little away. He made three bogeys on the front nine (on one, three and seven) which were accompanied by birdies on the fifth and eighth holes. Coming home, the 24-year-old Breen was as clinical as can be; making eight pars and a single birdie there to seal a round of 71. The Country Club Johannesburg player credited his putting for his resolute performance on Thursday, saying even he was surprised at some of the putts he made. “I made a six-footer for par on 10,” Breen recalled, “and I made a 10-footer for par on 15 and 10-footer for par on 16. I never really make those putts, especially under so much pressure. I know I haven’t this season. So, the putter was key for me; making a lot of those eight to 10-footers and especially for par. I know you’re going to hit so many bad shots the way the wind is, and chipping it close to the hole is difficult. So, those 10-footers were crucial today. “The wind was absolutely howling this week and as cliché as it sounds but being patient was key out there, and knowing that you’re going to make mistakes. I was grinding because the golf course is such a demanding test, especially in these conditions. So, I really can’t believe that I’ve done it because I thought that the winning score would be around two under today. I thought 68 is the number that I needed so I’m stoked to get it done.” Breen, who secured his Sunshine Tour playing privileges earlier this year at Qualifying School, said his win at Randpark is just a validation of the work he and his team have been putting in behind the scenes and that it boosts his confidence to want to compete even more. Breen joins amateur Christiaan Maas, DK Kim and Gregory McKay on the list of winners on the Altron Big Easy Tour this season. 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.

Frade, Hendler share top spot ahead of final round at Randpark

Nicholaus Frade was happy to shoot a second-round 1-under-par 70 which took his total to two-under for the week, catapulting him to a share of the top spot with Ricky Hendler in the Altron Big Easy Tour event that is currently underway in windy conditions at Randpark Golf Club. “I played solidly today under tough conditions,” Frade started, “it was easy to let a lot of bogeys happen today. I just made sure I didn’t make a double as well and when I got into trouble, I just made sure I kept it in play and tried to put a score together.” With the wind blowing at uncomfortable speeds around the Firethorn layout here in Randburg, it was always going to take patience and precision for any one player to shoot really low scores. Frade started on the 10th on Wednesday, making four pars and a birdie in his first five holes. A par on 15 was followed by a birdie on 16, Frade’s seventh hole of the day. He dropped a shot on 18, his ninth, and he was one-under through the first nine. He steadied himself after that drop and made back-to-back pars before finding joy on his 12th, making an important birdie there to stay in it ahead of the final round. Those gains were soon done away with as the Centurion Country Club member made a bogey on the par-five fourth. He made up for those losses with a birdie on six but with the final stretch at Randpark as tough as nails, Frade dropped another shot to seal a well-earned 70. “I did really well with controlling my ball flight,” Frade added, “and I always made sure I hit good distances. And my putting; I thought my putting and chipping helped me a lot today. The wind made things tough today, especially since those first two holes are straight into the wind and that makes it long and difficult. It just forces you to hit good shots. Even the closing stretch on both nines is just difficult, and there’s nothing like having a break at any time. You just have to keep your head down and graft. “But I think the weather and the wind will be the same tomorrow so I will have to take on the same strategy I had today; hit fairways and hit greens and if you make a few putts out there, things will happen for you. I’ll try to do the same things I have been doing for the first two days and see where it puts me.” Hendler shot two-over 73 but was able to maintain his spot at the summit of the leaderboard. “I had a tough first nine,” Hendler admitted, “but a really good back nine. You couldn’t get made today when you hit a shot that you didn’t want to hit because it was just so tough. The wind was like 45km an hour, everything is at the back, the pins are tucked, and it felt like I was at a Joburg Open event. “All I had to do was to try and get my rhythm back because I knew it will heat up a bit later on. I missed a couple of putts but I played really nicely on the back nine. But if the weather stays like this tomorrow, I think the guy with the biggest heart is going to win this tournament.” Hendler has shown a lot of that big heart in the last few events and will hope to be rewarded with a win on Thursday. 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.

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