3rd April 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Calderon takes control at Waterkloof with bittersweet 60
(Photo – Matias Calderon; credit CJ du Plooy)
TSHWANE, 3 April 2017 – Matias Calderon flirted with the first 59 in IGT Challenge Tour history on a dramatic opening day at Waterkloof Challenge on Monday, but although he came up just short, the Chilean still leads by a land mile from European Tour winner George Coetzee, Sunshine Tour champion Merrick Bremner and IGT Challenge Tour graduate Matthew Spacey.
Calderon was on track to a magical 59, but he missed a seven-footer for eagle on the last to settle for a six stroke lead at 12-under-par 60.
Still, the spectacular performance netted the 25-year-old Sunshine Tour rookie the 18-hole record on the IGT Challenge Tour and he bettered the Placing Record at Waterkloof Golf Club, held by Jaco Ahlers, by one shot.
“I was definitely thinking about the record, but I won’t say that I’m disappointed,” said Calderon.
“I am so happy how I handled the pressure and how I played the last couple of holes. It would have been fantastic to shoot 59, but I feel good anyway. I gave it everything I had, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
The Santiago native opened with two pars before he notched his first pair of birdies, followed by an eagle at the par-4 fifth. He bogeyed the short sixth, but rallied with another brace of birdies at seven and eight to turn five under. A string of five birdies in the row from the 10th moved Calderon to 10 under and he signed off with a birdie-birdie finish.
Calderon said the low score was the combination of a caddie that read the lines superbly, incredible wedges and a red-hot putter.
“I didn’t hit a lot of fairways, but when I missed the fairway it wasn’t by much,” he said. “I hit my wedges incredibly well and most of my birdie putts was inside six feet. I struggled to read the greens and it was great to Lucky on the bag. He stopped me every time I got the read wrong and the putter did the rest.
“I was between clubs and I had 126 metres into the wind at the fifth. I asked Lucky if there was a back stop and he told me to go for it. I hit it three feet past the pin and it spun back and dropped into the hole.
“I hit a great chip after I missed the green at six, but I missed the par putt. The birdies at seven and eight kept the momentum going and I hit it close all the way from 10 to 15. The 17th is a long par three and I stuck it 25 feet from the pin and holed the birdie putt.
“I tried to put the 59 in the back of my mind on the last hole, but it was there. I wanted to hit it as close as I could to give myself a chance and I left myself a seven foot putt. It was very fast, but I hit it right on the line. It looked like it was going in all the way, but it broke right at the hole.”
After Calderon graduated from the University of Arkansas in June last year, he joined best friend and countryman Antonia Costa as an amateur on the Mena Tour. In December, he turned pro on the Tour Del Pacifico at home. The Waterkloof Challenge was Calderon’s second start on the country’s premier development golf circuit since he earned his Sunshine Tour card at the 2017 Qualifying School.
“I was the leading amateur in three of my six starts on the Mena Tour, so I decided it was time to turn pro,” he said. “When Antonio got his Sunshine Tour card through the Mena Tour, I decided to try the Sunshine Tour Q-School. I played in eight tournaments at home to prepare for Q-School and after I got my card, Antonio and I planned to stay here to practice before the Zimbabwe Open.
“We heard about the IGT Challenge Tour from Andi Dill, a South African who also played the Mena Tour. Andi said the IGT Challenge Tour has a high standard, so we gave it a try. We had a lot of fun in the Better Ball tournament last week. And Andi was right; the standard is high and the tour is very competitive. It’s a great place to get ready and build confidence for Zimbabwe.”
Coetzee also showed some great form with four birdies and an eagle at the last hole for a share of second with Bremner and Spacey, who mixed nine birdies with a double bogey at the fifth and a bogey at nine for his 66.
Sunshine Tour Qualifying School winner Herman Loubser held his nerve playing alongside Coetzee and Bremner and produced a five-under-par 67 to share fifth with Gary Player Class of 2017 campaigner Jacquin Hess.