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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.

Mauritian golfer Pellegrin begins his path to greatness on Altron Big Easy Tour

Mauritian professional golfer Pierre Pellegrin says he acknowledges that after spending all of his life in his home country, it’s going to take a while for him to adjust to South Africa and the level of competition he faces on the Altron Big Easy Tour. At one stage the best amateur on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, Pellegrin, now a professional, has chosen to continue his golfing development through the Altron Big Easy Tour while setting his sights on the main circuit, the Sunshine Tour. “Greatness begins here, right,” says Pellegrin, with a bright smile on his face. “I’m planning to play all these events that are remaining on the Altron Big Easy, and obviously play the Sunshine Tour events also. I think golf in South Africa is very competitive. Most of the PGA Tour players who are South African are very good players. European guys and South African guys are right up there so I chose Sunshine Tour because I think it’s where I’m going to perform well to be able to go higher up in the ranking in the future and the Big Easy will help me get there.” Pellegrin didn’t make the cut in the SunBet Challenge in what was his first official tournament on the Sunshine Tour and failed to qualify for the KitKat Group Pro-Am. His struggles continued as he missed the cut in his first Altron Big Easy Tour outing at Reading Country Club last week but the 24-year-old isn’t too bothered by results at this point in his career. “Unfortunately, adjusting to new things takes time,” he adds, “and getting used to the culture, the environment and other things will take time. That is the same with golf. You have to be patient with yourself. I’m pretty new in this environment but I’m getting used to it. My first Big Easy event was at Reading. I shot badly because I had a hand injury that kept me back but as soon as I get my rhythm back, it’s game on.” Pellegrin is in the field at Randpark Golf Club this week and while he refuses to look too far ahead as he navigates the new environment in a foreign country, he does have short-term targets to work towards. “My short-term goals are to give myself chances to play a bit more, be more competitive,” he says, “I think I’m lacking a bit of competition at the moment. Because of Covid, I stayed in Mauritius and I came back in January here. As soon as I get back into the competition rhythm and mode, I will be able to showcase my talent and compete with these guys. For now, I need to get my rhythm back and play regular competitive golf and that’s what I’m getting from the Big Easy Tour.” Pellegrini is among many international golfers who have chosen to continue their golf development through the Altron Big Easy Tour, giving impetus to the Tour’s objective of being the premier pathway to the Sunshine Tour and the greatness that comes with that. With a number of players who graduated from the Altron Big Easy Tour going on to win on the Sunshine Tour, the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour, Pellegrin will hope to follow in their footsteps and ascend to the levels they have reached. 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.

On-form Hendler takes early lead at Randpark

Despite shooting a round of four-under-par 67 to take a one-stroke lead in the first round of the Altron Big Easy Tour tournament which is being played on the Firethorn course at Randpark Golf Club, Ricky Hendler felt like he left a lot of shots out there on Tuesday. Playing Firethorn for the first time in his career this week, Hendler was his usual self on the golf course; aggressively attacking pins where he felt he could capitalise and walking away with a par when things didn’t go his way. He did make a couple of bogeys but the left-handed Hendler was still happy with his opening round in Randburg. “I started solidly and I was one-under through three,” recalled Hendler, “but the second hole is just the toughest hole I have ever played.” I know it’s usually a par-five for the members but it was playing as a par-four and it is just tough. The putting felt pretty good today but it felt like I left a few shots out there today.” He opened his round with pars on the first two holes before a brace of birdies got onto his card on the third and fourth. A par-save on the par-three fifth was followed by another birdie on the sixth before the Dainfern Golf Club player dropped on seven. He bounced back solidly on the ninth, making a birdie there to turn in 32. “I played a practice round here on Sunday and played in the pro-am and couldn’t break par,” Hendler continued. “It’s such a tough course; you have to hit your driver long and straight and you’ve got to be really smart and stay focused. I said to my caddy this morning that if there is one thing we need to do right today, it’s to stay focused all the time. “We stayed focused on every shot; checked the pin sheet and that is the only way we were going to play well around here. You can hit a shot that is not even that bad and end up making a bogey and that is how tough this course is.” Hendler’s back nine consisted of a bogey on 11 and an eagle on the 14th. Hot on Hendler’s heels is the quartet of Jason Roets, Ruan De Smidt, Makhetha Mazibuko and last week’s winner, Gregory McKay. They are a shot adrift thanks to rounds of 68 on day one. “My short game was impressive today,” said Mazibuko, “and I was happy with my tee shots. It was tough with the wind so my short game had to be on point. I putted well too but I think my short game carried me through today. “You have to be patient here because the golf course is really tough and you need to keep it in play or else you get punished. But three-under is a good score and it’s exactly the start I needed this week.” Dayne Moore, Luan Boshoff, Nicholaus Frade and Karabo Mokwena are tied for sixth on one-under-par after the first round. 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.

Veteran Cairns urges players to make use of Altron Big Easy Tour opportunities

It was exactly 10 years ago when Ryan Cairns won his only Altron Big Easy Tour title and having now ascended to the realm of tour veterans, the Zimbabwean still holds this circuit in high regard. When the Altron Big Easy Tour was launched in 2011, Cairns was among the many professionals who were yet to grace the winner’s circle on the Sunshine Tour. The newly-established developmental tour proved to be the perfect platform for many players to sharpen their skills while readying themselves for the challenge that the Sunshine Tour would bring. “I have a special place in my heart for the Big Easy,” Cairns says, “because 10 years ago when the Big Easy had just started, I won on the Big Easy and then six weeks later, I won on the Sunshine Tour, so this is a Tour I will always support when I can. It’s also great to see all the young guys coming through the Big Easy.” Having gotten his breakthrough victory on the Altron Big Easy Tour, Cairns added his voice to the many who have hailed Altron for taking over the sponsorship of the Tour, saying it heralded a new era for golf development and access to the main circuit of the Sunshine Tour. “It’s extremely important for the guys who are out here playing for a living,” Cairns said of Altron’s sponsorship of this Tour. “It’s amazing that companies like Altron can come on board and support the tour; it’s such a great platform for the Sunshine Tour and you can see what the guys do once they elevate to the Sunshine Tour, the DP World Tour or the PGA Tour. “It’s such a great bunch of players coming through the ranks here in South Africa. I think Altron is well-positioned to add to the value of the Tour and, to be honest, I think this Tour is a really great platform for any company to launch their brand through; get a lot of visibility and TV and all these other stuff that comes with these sort of opportunities.” Cairns turned professional back in 2005 and with over R2 million in prize money won in a career that spans 15 years, the Royal Harare Golf Club member is qualified enough to give counsel to the younger players who are beginning the same journey he did on this circuit all those years ago. “Golf is such a tough sport, it’s really hard,” Cairns says, “so the best advice you can give any player is to say ‘don’t take yourself too seriously but at the same time, you’re playing for your career. It’s your dream to play on the Sunshine Tour or the DP World Tour or the PGA, so, use this platform to get to where you want to be. “Also, write for a lot of invites on the Sunshine Tour. This is what I always say to the youngsters; write 30 letters and maybe two of them come back to say you’re in, you never know. There’s a lot of golf being played in South Africa, so write those letters and who knows?” Cairns has gone on to play 234 tournaments on the Sunshine Tour, winning once and securing 18 top-10 finishes in what has been a great career for the Zimbabwean. 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.

McKay clinches play-off win at Reading

It took a birdie on the first playoff hole for Gregory McKay to claim his maiden Altron Big Easy Tour title after he and Gerhard Pepler shared the top position on four-under after regulation at Reading Country Club on Wednesday. “The second round was where it started for me,” McKay recalled. “I started off with a triple to start my day and I was two-over for the event but that sort of galvanised me and I went with the mentality that I might as well try to make birdies even though the wind really came up yesterday. “Going into the third round, it was very much a case of staying in my own lane, but it was very cold this morning during the last round. But, I managed to just hang in there and I managed to make a couple of birdies around the back nine.” The third round was always going to be an interesting affair with overnight leader Ricky Hendler, Robertson Golf Club member Jacquin Hess and Pepler all going for glory. Trailing Hendler by eight shots at the start of the third round, McKay had it all to do in Alberton on Wednesday and he didn’t disappoint. While he didn’t have anything to lose in round three, McKay was meticulous in his methods and that yielded a level-par 36 on the front nine. He made one bogey (on the first hole) and a solitary birdie (on seven) in his first nine holes. Then, on the 10th, he made further gains, walking away with a birdie there. A double-bogey followed on 11 but those losses were soon recovered as McKay made back-to-back birdies from the 12th through to the 14th. He held things together in the next three holes, making good up-an-downs on 16 and 17 to save par but dropped on 18. At four-under for the week, he was in the play-off with Pepler. “I just really trusted myself and that’s been the biggest thing for me in the last nine to 12 months,” added McKay, “today I hit a great putt on 18 (in regulation) but there was nothing more I could do when it didn’t go in. On the playoff hole, I hit the same club but slightly closer; perfect yardage, and I said to myself ‘it’s a play-off, we might as well try to go for birdie. If we lose to a birdie, it’s alright. That was the mentality.” McKay went on to praise the Altron Big Easy Tour title sponsors, Altron, for investing in the local game, adding that the Tour provides the perfect platform for young players to launch their professional golfing careers. 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 ‘fights’ his way to the top at Reading Country Club

Ricky Hendler said he had to fight his way to a one-under-par 70 second-round of the Altron Big Easy Tour event held at Reading Country Club to get to a tournament total of six-under and take a one-stroke lead over Jacquin Hess ahead of the final round. Hendler was a shot adrift of Reinhardt Blaauw’s lead after round one, and on a cold and windy Tuesday in Alberton, south of Johannesburg, the left-handed golfer knew it would take more than just good golf to get himself into contention once more this season. Starting from the 10th, his eventful round was characterised by five birdies, a double-bogey, a triple-bogey, a bogey and an eagle as assumed the top spot on moving day. “It was a bit of a mess, to begin with,” admitted Hendler after a gruelling round. “The spotter couldn’t find my ball on the first and I made a triple. But I fought really hard. I played some really good golf and some not-really-good golf but I am pretty confident coming in tomorrow. I’m coming to win. “I fought hard today and tried to keep it together. The key is to avoid getting too angry when you make mistakes and when the wind takes your ball to the bushes. You want to keep it in play and fight as hard as you can. That’s what today was about.” Hendler will be pleased with his effort in round two because, and not for the first time this season, he goes into the final round billed among the favourites to win here. His recent form includes two runners-up finishes on the Altron Big Easy Tour and a win at last week’s Bushveld Tour. Be that as it may, however, the Dainfern Golf Club member will have it all to do when the final round tees of here. The chasing pack is led by the 2017 Altron Big Easy Tour Order of Merit winner, Jacquin Hess, whose three-under 68 score shot him to second on the leaderboard and a single shot off Hendler’s lead. Hess was three-under and bogey-free on the front nine as he charged for the summit but a bogey after the turn derailed his progress. He recovered swiftly after that and made birdies on 12 and 15, although he would go on to drop another shot on the 16th which denied him a share of the lead with Hendler. “The conditions were tough today,” Hess said. “This golf course is just as tough; tricky greens but the ball is rolling beautifully. You had to be accurate off the tee because the wind is up today I kept the ball in pay and committed to my shots. “But I have a new Callaway driver in the bag and that thing is amazing. It’s the first time I’m using it and I found a lot of fairways, so I am happy. I think the difference between today and yesterday is that I birdied all the par-fives today. I’m just happy to be where I am right now and I feel good going to the final round. It’s going to be tough but every golf round on this Tour is tough.” The Robertson Golf Club player, Hess, is not a stranger to tough competition but he will be aware of the danger Hendler possesses and will know that on a tough layout such as Reading Country Club, any error on Wednesday will be punished. On three-under and in a three-way share of the third spot lies Gregory McKay, Gerard Pepler and overnight leader, Blaauw. 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.

Slatter motivated for Altron Big Easy Tour success following KZN floods

Royal Johannesburg and Kensington player Keaton Slatter says while it was initially tough to deal with the tragedy of losing his home in the recent floods in KwaZulu Natal, he has found a focus point which he hopes will propel him to success in the Altron Big Easy Tour this season. Slatter’s family, based in Durban, was among the hundreds of people who lost their livelihoods when the floods struck some two months ago. “Leading up to Q-School; that week of Q-School, the floods in Durban hit our house and we lost everything,” Slatter reveals. “My parents and my fiancé were inside the house but thankfully, they managed to get out, so that’s the main thing that’s a plus. They all survived and they are here, so that’s the most important thing.” With his family safe and the tragedy now a painful memory, Slatter got down to work on his golf and played the first tournament of the Altron Big Easy Tour at Blue Valley Golf Estates where he missed the cut. In the second event at Huddle Park Golf Club a week ago, Slatter finished in a share of 10th. “It was tough to restart, obviously, because it was still new and fresh,” Slatter says, “but it kind of motivated me to do what I need to do and put the work into my golf so that I can get where I want to be. Luckily, I have a strong support system that takes care of that stuff and not make me think too much about it. I’d say the whole thing has driven me to work even harder.” Slatter is playing the Altron Big Easy Tour event that’s being hosted at Reading Country Club this week and that share of 10th at Huddle Park will give him another boost as aims to rebuild his life, on and off the golf course. The 28-year-old is among many players who have heaped praise on Altron for joining hands with the Sunshine Tour to rebrand and invest in the Big Easy Tour. “It’s a huge thing for us playing to have a sponsor like Altron,” Slatter added, “they’re an awesome organisation that’s leading the way in their industry so it’s nice of them to give us these opportunities to perform, week in and week out. It’s a fantastic thing for golf and we hope it encourages other corporates to invest in South African golf too.” 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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