21st February 2018 | IGT Challenge Tour

Albertse edges Van den Berg for Copperleaf win

(PHOTO – Louis Albertse with Els Club Copperleaf Golf Director Jaun Geyser; credit CJ du Plooy)

Lali Stander

PRETORIA, 21 February 2018 – Rustenburg amateur Louis Albertse held his nerve over the last three holes of The Els Club Copperleaf to capture his second IGT Challenge Tour title by one shot on a very wet Wednesday in Pretoria.

The 21-year-old fired a second 64 to grab a share of the overnight lead and headed into the final round with fellow HPC Tuks Golf Academy player Tokkie van den Berg for company on 11 under.

“It was the first time that I shared the lead going into a final round,” said Albertse, who closed with a 69 to win on 14-under 202. “It was quite a daunting experience, but I am proud of the way that I kept my composure throughout the round.

“It rained overnight and the conditions were tough. I made birdies at one and four, dropped a shot at five and birdied eight to turn two under. I was happy to have a two shot lead, especially when it started pouring as we turned.”

Albertse parked his tee shot at 10 in the left bunker, but made a great up-and-down. His tee shot at 12 veered right into the dam but once again, he made a great recovery to save par.

“I took a drop and had 150 metres to the flag,” he said. “The hole was downwind and I hit a sand-wedge to 25 feet and boxed the putt. For me, saving par at 12 swung the momentum my way. It kept the round going.”

He made another good up-and-down for par at 13 from the greenside bunker while Van den Berg bogeyed 13 and 14,

Both players birdied the par five 15th, and Van den Berg closed the gap with a birdie at 16. Race to Q-School Order of Merit leader Ruan Conradie also entered the mix with birdies at 15 and 16 and the pressure mounted when Van den Berg birdied the 17th, as well.

“The 17th is a really tough hole,” said Albertse. “Ruan and Tokkie hit great shots in, but Ruan missed his birdie chance, but Tokkie knocked his putt in for birdie. I was 35 foot left of the pin. I left my first putt five foot short, but made the par save.”

With a one shot reserve, Albertse got a grip on the nerves.

“Holing that clutch-putt gave me a huge injection of confidence,” he said. “I felt calm and in control over my tee shot at 18, I hit a good drive down the right of the fairway, but then the adrenaline hit.

“I had 120 metres to the flag. The green was uphill, but the shot was down-wind. I hit a gap-wedge, but it pitched 128 metres. Ruan and Tokkie were both in the bunkers, so I knew a good par would seal the win.

“I had a 10-footer left, but I pushed it three feet past the hole on the first go. It wasn’t ideal and I felt the nerves, but I had a little breathing room and cleaned up with a par for the win.”

The victory nudged Albertse to eighth in the Race to Q-School Order of Merit.

“My goal for the Race to Q-School Series was to break into the top 10 so I would be exempt straight into the Final Stage of the Sunshine Tour Qualifying School in March,” he said.

“It feels unbelievably good to have reached that goal. I had to choose between playing the Sanlam SA Amateur, or playing the last two Race to Q-School tournaments. It was a tough choice, but this win is a confirmation of all the hard work my coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen and I have put in since I moved from Dundee to Pretoria at the end of 2015.

“It has been a really hard and long journey, but that’s what so gratifying about this win. I’ve seen the improvements pay off on the amateur circuit and then on the IGT Challenge Tour. Winning my second title means even more, because most of the guys playing IGT at the moment are heading to Q-School, so the standard is much higher and way more competitive than when I won in June last year.”

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