30th November 2016 | IGT Challenge Tour
Arnoldi goes wire-to-wire at Centurion
TSHWANE, 30 November 2016 – A healthy dose of patience and a hot putter helped NJ Arnoldi to seal a wire-to-wire victory on the IGT Tour with a commanding performance on the back nine at Centurion Country Club on Wednesday.
Smarting after a play-off loss in last week’s Race to Q-School #8, the Silver Lakes pro fired rounds of 63, 66 and 70 to capture the ninth tournament in the 18-event series for his first win on the country’s premier golf development circuit this season.
“This feels so great,” said the Tshwane golfer, who triumphed by three shots on a 17 under par total. “It’s been a long while since the last one. I definitely had a few scary moments at the start, but the putter was hot from start to finish and I knew if I could keep my nose in front, I could pull it through.”
Arnoldi had a lone bogey in his first two rounds, but swing trouble over the first seven holes in the final round saw him rack up four bogeys that ate away at his four shot lead. But he held his frustration in check and his patience won the day.
“The first seven holes were hugely frustrating, because I was striking the ball as well as the first two days, but I kept hitting it left or right,” he said.
“I knew if I could figure out what was wrong, I could turn it around, so I just kept grinding. Thanks to birdies at 10 and 13, I stayed in the mix. Then I birdied 17 and I realised that my swing sequence was out.
“I hit a good tee shot down the 18th and made par to turn one over and some more solid drives at the first four holes on the back nine gave me some momentum. I knew the problem was sorted.”
Arnoldi cruised through a flawless back nine and picked up three birdies along the way at the fifth, seventh and ninth.
“Even with a four shot overnight lead, I expected to have a big job on my hands, because the course yielded a lot of low scores in the first two rounds,” he said.
“But they saved the toughest pins for the last round and they really stretched the course. No no-one was making a strong run and that gave me the chance to figure out the swing problem. I swear I could hear my coach in my head, saying ‘patience, NJ, patience’.
“Luckily the putter was hot from start to finish and even when I was in the wrong areas, I could cosy it up to two or three feet. I’m most happy about the fact that I didn’t drop a shot down the back nine.”
The start to finish victory has given Arnoldi a welcome boost of confidence ahead of his trip to the First Stage of Asian Tour’s Qualifying School early in the New Year.
“It feels incredibly good to show my sponsors that their support and faith in me is justified,” he said. “I am so grateful to the SA Hall of Fame, Titleist and Rudy Project for their backing and just really happy to show them that I’m worth the investment. And I owe a huge debt of gratitude to coach John and my work-out guru Garth Milne; you guys are the best.”
Benoni’s Dean O’Riley closed with a 69 to seal a runner-up finish at 202, while Wingate Park golfer Fanie Wolmarans carded a 72 to edge out Matthew Spacey and fellow amateur Ruan Korb by one shot for sole third at 205.