20th February 2018 | IGT Challenge Tour

Awesome 27 blasts Albertse into joint lead at Copper Leaf

(PHOTO – Louis Albertse; credit CJ du Plooy)

Lali Stander

PRETORIA, 20 February 2018 – Louis Albertse produced the lowest loop of his career when he raced through the back nine at The Els Club Copperleaf in 27 strokes to grab a share of the second round lead in the penultimate event in the Race to Q-School Series on the IGT Challenge Tour.

It was not the round he was expecting when he stuck his tee in the ground on the first hole.

The big-hitting Dundee-born amateur was four shots off the pace and it didn’t look like he was going to gain any ground on first round pace-setter Tokkie van den Berg as he mixed three birdies with two bogeys and a double at the ninth to turn one over.

“I started nicely with three pars and made a birdie at four, but I had a soft drop at five,” said the 21-year-old HPC Tuks Golf Academy player. “I made a nice back-up birdie at six, gave it back with another soft bogey at seven, birdied eight and then had a double on nine.

“Every time I felt that I was getting it going, I had a drop. When I started the back nine, I wasn’t featuring on the leaderboard and I just told myself to put together a solid back nine.”

And everything clicked.

Albertse made three birdies on the bounce from 10, followed a birdie at 14 with an eagle at the par five 15th and fired three successive birdies over the last three holes.

“To start with three birdies in a row was brilliant,” said Albertse. “I hit two good shots at 10 and holed the putt and I made a good up-and-down for birdie at 11. At the 12th I hit it into the fairway bunker and I had 115 metres to the pin. It’s a tight hole with water on the right and I hit a good shot to leave myself with a six-footer for birdie. My mood definitely lifted with that start.”

Albertse parred 13, then hit a 7-iron to 10 foot at the short 14th and made the putt to go four-under.

“Now I felt really confident and positive,” he said. “I hit a good drive down the middle at the par five and had 245 metres to the flag. The wind was into us, so I swapped the 4-iron for the hybrid. Hit it just long, right, but chipped it in for eagle.”

The Rustenburg golfer had two goals for the last three holes.

“Finish strong and don’t drop a shot,” he said. “I had 35 metres flag at 16 and I didn’t hit my best second shot. I had 10 feet to the pin and I hit it firm and positive and watched the putt drop. The downhill 17th was playing 142 metres, so I hit a normal wedge to 15 foot.

“It was a very tricky putt. My caddie and I saw a three foot break and we had it spot on. The 18th tee was set right at the back. I hit a decent tee shot and a good second from 152 metres into the wind to finish 20 feet from the pin. We got the read right again and I boxed the birdie putt.”

Albertse said the 27 – which was one shot shy of the IGT Challenge Tour all-time 9-hole record of 26, set my Maritz Wessels in 2013 – was the result of long working on his putting game with his coach Llewellyn van Leeuwen.

Putts were dropping when he claimed top 10 finishes in the Free State Open and Gauteng North Open to start the 2018 season. A fortnight ago, he tied for fifth in the South African Amateur Stroke Play at Pecanwood and he came into this week on the back of a joint sixth place finish in the African Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Glendower Golf Club last Friday.

“I had 12 putts on the front nine and eight on the back,” said the reigning Mpumalanga Open champion, who has risen to 12th on the Open Amateur Rankings this season. “That’s another personal record for me. Putting is definitely key to my good scoring lately.

“I shot four rounds in the 60s in the SA Stroke Play and finished with a five under at Glendower after another really good putting round. All I wanted for this week was to be in contention, and I am there. Now I just need to keep that putter warm.”

Van den Berg got it to two under with back-to-back birdies after the turn and another pair of gains at 15 and 16 saw him retain a share of the lead with a four-under 68.

Meanwhile Race to Q-School Order of Merit leader Ruan Conradie from Wingate Park moved within one shot of the leaders with a flawless 66. Two-time winner Roberto Lupini also fired a 64 to join Canadian Steven Lecuyer and the Swede Fredrik From in third at eight-under.

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