19th October 2017 | Big Easy Tour
“Mental strength” gives Hess BET Champs victory
Jacquin Hess entered the final round of the Big Easy Tour Championship tournament held at Observatory Golf Club trailing by five shots, but a strong seven-under-par 65 final round earned him his maiden Big Easy win while also winning the tour’s Order of Merit.
“I showed some guts to come back from a two-shot penalty in round two” Hess said after his win. “So, that really showed I have something in me to dig deep and just fight back. It was a tough day, but I just told myself “just give yourself opportunities””
He gave himself plenty of opportunities this week as he began the tournament with a four-under 68 first round that was followed by an indifferent one-under-par second round. His third round was action-packed, consisting of five birdies, an albatross on the par-five 14th and a bogey on 17.
“I’m extremely satisfied,” he said. “On the first hole, I made a good 10-foot putt for par and that set the tone. From there on, it was like riding downhill: all birdies. I don’t know what happened on the par-five (14th where he made that albatross). It was my first time ever. From there all of a sudden I was in the lead and I had to do was to compose myself.”
“Mental strength is one of the strongest points in my game and I was lucky to have a mental coach walk with me on in the first round and I played well.”
He needed to keep his emotions in check as overnight leader Coert Groenewald kept the chase alive. “I didn’t watch it at all,” Hess said about Groenewald’s near miss on 18 where, had he birdied that hole, a play-off would be inevitable. “I just went to the locker room to say a prayer. It’s been an incredible journey for me.”
While he admitted that this is his best season in his five years as a professional, Hess had not won anything before and Thursday’s win not only marked his first-ever win but it also delivered him victory in the Order of Merit.
He acknowledged the support he’s received along his development path and particularly the South African Golf Development Board and the Gary Player Class of 2017-18. “I have to thank the Gary Player Class of 2017-18 for what they are doing,” an excited Hess said. “This is another feather in the cap for the Gary Player Class of 2017-18, SA Golf Development Board, SA Students, Boland Golf, and now after five years this is my first win.”
Now, with the Big Easy Tour schedule done and dusted for the season, Hess will have more pressing issues with the main tour’s summer swing around the corner. He refuses to put pressure on himself after this win though, saying his strategy of playing a solid first round and consolidating, and trying to put together an even stronger final round remains his point of reference.
18th October 2017 | Big Easy Tour
Groenewald leads at Observatory ahead of final round
Coert Groenewald carded a second round seven-under-par 65 at Observatory Golf Club and said a proper warm-up did the trick as he moved to 10-under for the week and climb to first on the leaderboard ahead of the final round.
â€œToday I got going a bit quicker,â€ said Groenewald. â€œYesterday, the front nine and playing in the cold wasnâ€™t that nice, so today obviously the weather was nice, a bit windy at the end of the day. But, I feel like I warmed up properly today.â€
He was, naturally, pleased with his round in which he made nine birdies which were accompanied by dropped shots on 10 and the par-three 15. â€œLook, Iâ€™m really happy with the way things went today,â€ he said.
â€œI feel like I left two shots out there but you know you canâ€™t be too greedy. I feel like I played really well today.â€ And, while heâ€™s at the summit of the leaderboard on moving day, Groenewald refuses to get carried away because of Wednesdayâ€™s performance.
â€œI try not to think about it too much,â€ he said of the possibility of him going all the way to winning come Thursday. â€œSo, tomorrow I will just go out there and do my own thing and see.â€
It will be a tough final round out there because lurking dangerously â€“ and a shot behind â€“ is Jeff Inglis who shot a flawless six-under-par 66 to move to second on nine-under for the week. He too credits the much-improved weather for carding such a low score, saying with the wind blowing a lot less in round two, all he had to worry about was hitting good shots and making the putts.
Cautious of the reality of the golf game where things could change pretty quickly, Inglis, happy as he is with his second round, will not count his chickens until the eggs hatch. â€œItâ€™s always a good feeling to be in contention,â€ he said. â€œBut, I mean, we have another day to go so I will just go out there and enjoy this course.â€
Anton Haig also signed for a 66 to move to third on the leaderboard while Botswanaâ€™s Stuart Smith and overnight leader Jacquin Hess share fourth on five-under-par. Pieter Kruger takes up the sixth spot on the leaderboard on four-under with Musiwalo Nethunzwi, Bennie van der Merwe, Antonio Rosado, Omar Sandys and Greg Bentley all tied for seventh at three-under-par for the week.
With the course at Observatory seemingly allowing for some really low scores, the final round is sure to be a scintillating affair.
17th October 2017 | Big Easy Tour
Calm Hess leads by a shot at Observatory
Jacquin Hess says he had to remain calm on his way to posting a flawless four-under-par 68 opening round of the Big Easy Tour Championship at Observatory Golf Club and take a one-shot lead in windy conditions on Tuesday.
â€œToday I just came out and said â€˜OK, donâ€™t put pressure on yourselfâ€™, because thatâ€™s what I have been doing the last couple of events,â€ Hess said after his round. â€œIâ€™m having my best season, so Iâ€™m just trying to improve so I thought, letâ€™s go calm. No emotions and just keep level-headed.â€
Hess made his gains on the front nine where he made four birdies, however, he seemed to be playing cautiously on the back nine where he made no birdies and dropped no shots. And by this time, the wind had started swirling around and threatening to put off even the best ball-hitters.
â€œIâ€™m lucky to know the course,â€ he said. â€œI have played here a couple of times, the course is in great nick. Luckily Iâ€™m from the Western Cape so I know the wind. Robertson, we get a lot of wind there but not like this. Here, itâ€™s swirling around but Iâ€™m happy with the score, no bogeys there.â€
Close behind Hess lurks the duo of Coert Groenewald and Jeff Inglis who both signed for three-under 69s to take second place. â€œIâ€™m really happy with the 69,â€ Groenewald admitted. â€œIâ€™m feeling a bit under the weather because I have been sick but other than that I feel pretty confident.â€
Sharing fourth after round one are Bryn Flanagan and Greg Bentley, both of whom signed for two-under-par 70 opening rounds. Botswanaâ€™s Stuart Smith, Drikus van der Walt and Omar Sandys take up the sixth spot on the leaderboard after they all shot one-under 71. Shooting level-par on opening day at Observatory were Bryce McCabe, Brett Liddle, Anton Haig, Duane Keun, Herman Loubser, Antonio Rosado and Kingâ€™s Cup winner, Bryandrew Roelofsz.
With things tight as they are after round one in Johannesburg, the second round will be interesting to watch as all players will want to forge a gap between themselves and their competitors in this 54-hole final event.
16th October 2017 | Big Easy Tour
Van den Bergh seeks main tour form at BET Champs
Desne van den Bergh needed a win or a second-place finish at last yearâ€™s Big Easy Tour Championship to earn himself a Sunshine Tour playing card and his objective was achieved as he came in a share of second with Bryandrew Roelofsz, two shots behind eventual winner Jason Viljoen.
â€œLast year it was tough out there,â€ said Van den Bergh ahead of the first round of this final event on the Big Easy Tour this season. â€œI had just changed my swing and I was trying a couple of things out. I went there with a goal because I needed to win that tournament or come second so that I could get my Sunshine Tour Card and I achieved that.â€
He is teeing it up on Tuesday at the back of some really solid performances and most notably that share of 17th at last weekâ€™s Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament at Sishen Golf Club, and he feels his game has been improving ever since that result at Wanderers in September last year.
â€œI have been feeling good about my game,â€ he said, â€œI think I have been getting better and better with every tournament. And, the Sunshine Tour events I have played, I felt like I played well and Iâ€™m getting better with my golf.â€
Like many other players, Van den Berg understands that because a player gets good results the one week does not mean they will enjoy the same success the next and is therefore realistic about his chances this week at Observatory Golf Club where the last event on the BET circuit is being played this year.
â€œYou know in golf itâ€™s always up and down,â€ he remarked. â€œI mean, this week might be better and next week is bad. So I try my best to win tournaments but I donâ€™t always play under pressure because of that.â€
Now, in a strong field such as the field assembled at Observatory this week, Van den Bergh will hope to emulate the big performances he has produced on the Sunshine Tour, where he has eight top-40 finishes this season. It will not be an easy feat, however, as players like Herman Loubser, Zack Byrd and Wynand Dingle, among others, aim for success on this tour.
| Big Easy Tour
Roelofsz not getting ahead of himself at Observatory
Despite winning the penultimate tournament of the Big Easy Tour which was the BET Kingâ€™s Cup in Swaziland two weeks ago, last yearâ€™s runner-up in the BET Championship, the final event on this circuit, Bryandrew Roelofsz insist he is under no pressure to want to better last yearâ€™s result this week at Observatory Golf Club.
â€œGolf rounds will never be the same,â€ Roelofsz said ahead of the tournament which tees off on Tuesday. â€œI could never predict how rounds will turn out so I never put any kind of pressure on my shoulders ahead of tournaments.â€
And, despite knowing that Jason Viljoen who defeated him and Desne van den Berg by two shots in the corresponding event last year at Wanderers Golf Club, isnâ€™t playing this week, Roelofsz maintains that if his head is in the right space, he can produce the goods. â€œItâ€™s all in the mind,â€ he said. â€œIf my mind is at the right place, then sure I can play well.
â€œI am just going to take things easy. One shot at a time. One hole at a time. If I play well, then I might have a chance but it all depends on the state of mind so I donâ€™t have any expectation when I go to play except to play one shot at a time and if itâ€™s my day, then I win.â€
He might sound cautious of his chances at Observatory but Roelofsz is in good form and that win in Swaziland, which was his second on the Big Easy after he won the East to South Challenge which was co-sanctioned with the MENA Tour, was an exhibition of that form. He downplayed his current form.
â€œI donâ€™t want to talk too much before a round of golf because things change so quickly in this sport. I just want to take things as they come and take whatever result that comes,â€ Roelofsz said. And, he will know better than most how true that is, because, in spite of that victory at Royal Swazi Spa, he went on to miss the cut on the main tourâ€™s Vodacom Origins of Golf tournament held at Sishen Golf Club last week.
6th October 2017 | Big Easy Tour
Roelofsz wins King’s Cup
Bryandrew Roelofsz recently got a new set of irons and he put them to good use this week en route to winning the Big Easy Kingâ€™s Cup by 14-under-par 247, a shot clear of the chasing players at Royal Swazi Spa.
â€œI am so chuffed,â€ he said after his seven-under-par final round in which he had been chasing Jacques P de Villiers who was leading. â€œIâ€™m stoked for words, hey. Â I have a new set of irons and things are starting to come together now, so I am chuffed.Â A hard week paid out, I played well today.
It was intense at Royals Swazi Spa as it looked as though the tournament would be decided in a play-off, however, De Villiers dropped a shot on 13 and 15, while Roelofszâ€™s eagle on 12 meant he would maintain top spot and finish 14-under on Friday.
â€œI hit it down the middle,â€ Roelofsz said, â€œthen a nine-iron in, put it stiff and made the putt. I have been working hard. The pressure was there, it was intense today but I just kept strong and kept it together.â€
He added that he played the best golf this week in a long time while also crediting his performance to the relationship he has with his caddie. â€œDenis (his caddie) and I are friends first. We are a team. Everything comes down to team-work and friendship,â€ he said.
While De Villiers looked like he would win in Swaziland following some impressive golf during the week, he fell at the last hurdle and had to settle for a share of second place with Herman Loubser and James Pennington, the Swazi amateur was runner-up last season. Botswanaâ€™s Stuart Smith, NJ Arnoldi and Dongkwan Kim share the fifth position on 12-under while Pieter Kruger, Wynand Dingle and Coert Groenewald make up the top-10 finishers.
5th October 2017 | Big Easy Tour
De Villiers takes Kingâ€™s Cup lead on moving day
Jacques P de Villiers shot two-under-par 70 in round three of the Big Easy Kingâ€™s Cup to total 13-under for the tournament and usurp Dongkwan Kim from the summit of the leaderboard ahead of the final round.
He went into the third round trailing by a single shot behind Kim on 11-under, and eventually took over the top spot after Kim shot two-over-par on Thursday. â€œIâ€™m 13-under now and Iâ€™m very happy about it,â€ De Villiers said after his round.
â€œIt was a miserable day today. It was really tough. The wind made it very tricky trying to commit to a shot and getting them close. And with the wet greens, they pick up the sand and make judging the speed a bit tricky but they were still running true, so Iâ€™m chuffed with my round,â€ he said.
In such weather conditions, a two-under-par score is respectable and De Villiers maintains that with the score he has posted for the week, there will be no reason for him to either attack or play safely in the final round. â€œThe game plan tomorrow is pretty much the same,â€ he said.
â€œThe aim is to just hit fairways and greens. Iâ€™m not really going to let the other guys bother me. Iâ€™ll just be sticking to my own thing and see what happens. If it produces a win, Iâ€™m very happy.â€
Making moving day count was veteran Bradford Vaughan who has won three times in Swaziland before. He posted the lowest score of the round as he powered to a seven-under-par 65 third round which catapulted him to a share of second with Aubrey Beckley on 11-under. A bogey on 15, which was his sixth hole, spoiled what could have been a flawless round for the 42-year old.
Beckley, on the other hand, shot a perfect six-under-66 while Kimâ€™s two-over par saw him drop from 12-under par for the week to 10-under and leave him fourth on the leaderboard. NJ Arnoldi occupies fifth on nine-under while Duane Keun, Ruan Conradie, Swazi amateur James Pennington, Herman Loubser and Coert Groenewald are in a share of sixth on eight-under-par.
With things so tight at the top of the leaderboard, the final round is sure to produce some of the best golf for the spectators and players alike.
| Big Easy Tour
Vaughan draws on past Swazi experiences at Kingâ€™s Cup
Bradford Vaughan has won three times before in Swaziland in his enduring career and after shooting a seven-under-par 65 third round of the Big Easy Kingâ€™s Cup on Thursday and back in contention, he says he is feeling relaxed ahead of the final round at Royal Swazi Spa.
â€œLook, I have managed to win here a few times over the years so I have good vibes on this golf course,â€ Vaughan says. â€œWhen I drive through the border here, I get a relaxing feeling. Iâ€™m comfortable here and Swaziland has been really good to me over the years.â€
He won the Royal Swazi Sun Classic here in 1999, two years later Vaughan won the Investec Royal Swazi Open and in 2004, he won his second Royal Swazi Sun Classic here. So, that calmness and relaxation showed this week as he started off with a round of 73 which would have been a little disappointing. However, he bounced back in style as he shot five-under 67 in round two, and then followed that up with the 65 he signed for on Thursday.
â€œI got off to a slow start this week,â€ he admits, â€œbut the score has gotten better yesterday and today so I am very satisfied.â€ With those scores, Vaughan got in contention and he agrees it is impossible not to think back to the times he has won on this course.
He will be glad to put together such solid performances because while he can be a serious threat when heâ€™s on form, Vaughan only has one top-10 (Big Easy Glendower) and one top-20 (Big Easy Kempton Park) in 10 events played on the Big Easy Tour circuit this season.
An eight-time winner on the Sunshine Tour, the 42-year-old Heron Banks Golf and River Estate professional will want to continue with his current form if he is to improve his standings in the Big Easy Tourâ€™s Order of Merit where he currently lies 44th.
4th October 2017 | Big Easy Tour
Cautious Kim holds on to Kingâ€™s Cup lead
Dongkwan Kim didnâ€™t have a practice round ahead of the Big Easy Kingâ€™s Cup in Swaziland, and following his second round five-under-par 67 score on Wednesday, Kim credits his cautious approach for handing him the lead at Royal Swazi Spa.
â€œI arrived here late on Monday and didnâ€™t have a practice round so I felt I was not prepared well,â€ Kim said. â€œI had no expectations and I think I played cautiously yesterday and today and that was the key to scoring well for me. I was going safe and not attacking anything.â€
Kim had a birdie-laden second round where he made eight birdies, but he dropped three shots to take his score to five-under for the round and 12-under-par for the week. â€œI was putting well in both rounds but my plan is to play the same way. Hit it where I can see the ball, if I feel like I can attack the flag, then sure, but if not, I will just keep it safe as I have done.â€
Hot on his heels is Jacques P de Villiers who also shot a five-under 67 to total 11-under-par for the tournament. While he expressed his unhappiness with how he played his front nine, it was on the back nine De Villiers feels he did well to place himself into contention ahead of the final round in Mbabane.
â€œIâ€™m very happy with my golf today,â€ De Villiers said, â€œbut I was a bit disappointed with my front nine. I didnâ€™t play that nine very well, I had problems with my putter but I fixed that up and played solidly the back nine.â€
De Villiers said he is excited for the weekend and that he feels his game is in a space where he can challenge for titles. â€œMy form is really good at the moment, so I am really looking forward to the last two tournaments on the Big Easy. My putting has been getting better and better and my consistency with my irons too, so I feel good at the moment.â€
Making some positive moves on Wednesday was NJ Arnoldi who carded a six-under-par 66 round to total 10-under and move to third on the leaderboard. He is followed by overnight leader Albert Venter on nine-under. Coert Groenewald on eight-under takes the fifth spot while Herman Loubser, Wynand Dingle and Francois Coetzee share the sixth position on seven-under-par for the tournament.
The final round promises to be an exciting affair, as only four shots separated the top eight players after moving day.
3rd October 2017 | Big Easy Tour
Venter in three-way lead on debut in Kingâ€™s Cup
Albert Venter made his professional debut with some impact as he carded a flawless seven-under-par 65 opening round to share the early lead of the Big Easy Kingâ€™s Cup with Dwayne Basson and Dongkwan Kim, at Royal Swazi Spa on Tuesday.
â€œConsidering itâ€™s a debut for me, itâ€™s a perfect start and one I hope will open up to bigger things for me,â€ Venter said. â€œI think for me keeping the drops off the card was key to shooting 65 today. I just want to carry on hitting the greens and making the putts, and that will be the game plan for the remaining rounds of the tournament.â€
Having earned his professional card at qualifying school earlier this year, Venter only recently relinquished his amateur status, and in Swaziland he looked like heâ€™s been mixing it with the pros for many years. He started on the 10th and went on to make five birdies and an eagle to total seven-under in a bogey-free effort.
His game plan seems to have worked some magic for Venter as he made an eagle in just his third, the 12th, hole as a professional on the Big Easy Tour. â€œI hit my driver and missed it a bit to the right and got lucky off the tee, hit an eight-iron in and had a tap in for eagle. It was a pretty good start to the round,â€ he said.
While Venter was having the time of his life in his debut, Basson has had to contend with some inconsistencies over the last few months. And while he acknowledges the struggles in his game up to this point, he was quick to point out that his game is now on the mend and heâ€™s looking forward to playing some good golf again.
â€œIâ€™m just happy to finally put things together,â€ he said. â€œThings were not piecing nicely together the last few tournaments but everything is coming together now and I am happy to go bogey-free today.â€
And while he is not yet at his very best, Basson recognises he needs to be patient as he tries to improve his game. â€œThe driving has been poor the last couple of months but it is now coming in nicely. The driving and putting are really coming together now and I look forward to golf again,â€ Basson said.
Ruan Conradie and Jacques P de Villiers share the fourth spot after they both carded 66s while Wynand Dingle, Botswanaâ€™s Stuart Smith, Combrinck Smit, Drikus van der Walt, Kyle Barker and Coert Groenewald share sixth position following their rounds of five-under 67.