23rd August 2017 | IGT Challenge Tour
Conradie claims IGT hat-trick at Wingate Park
(PHOTO – Ruan Conradie; credit CJ du Plooy)
TSHWANE, 23 August 2017 – Pretoria rookie Ruan Conradie fired a superb six-under-par 66 in extremely windy conditions to win the Wingate Challenge in a superb come-from-behind performance on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old sealed his third professional tittle of the season on eight under 208, edging out overnight leader Jade Buitendag by one shot at Wingate Park Country Club.
Much of the focus had been on the big-hitting Buitendag from Border, who headed into the final round with a five shot cushion. The current Money List leader was well under the radar, trailing by nine shots, but consecutive birdies at the start of the round provided the push that steered Conradie to his fifth victory on the country’s premier golf development circuit.
“My brother and I discussed this huge lead that Jade was starting with before the final round,” said Conradie. “Estiaan was seven off the pace and I was nine behind. Given the windy conditions, we both thought it would take a miracle to beat Jade.
“I reminded my brother that he came from seven behind to win last year, so it could be done. But I didn’t honestly believe I would do it. Not until I started birdie-birdie. That’s when I thought I might have a chance.
“My eagle putt at the second just shaved the hole, but I got the birdie and gaining two shots so early in the round put me in a positive frame of mind. I had a soft bogey at seven but overall, I played solid the front nine solid and I found some great rhythm on the back nine.”
The Wanna Be A Champion Academy player moved into the mix with a birdie at 11 as the leading players faltered and an eagle at the par five 13th pushed Conradie into the lead.
“I missed a short birdie putt at the 12th but then I chipped in from 30 metres out for the eagle at the 12th. Jade dropped two shots at the ninth and he had another double bogey at 13, so suddenly I had my nose in front.”
He cemented his lead with brace of birdies at 14 and 15 and successive pars over the closing holes.
“I made a great par-save at 17 to stay in the lead,” Conradie said. “I pulled my tee shot and I had no shot. The only option was to chip out of the trees back to the fairway. I had 70 metres left to the pin. I hit my third shot to 15 feet and holed the putt for a great four.
“The 18th is a monster, especially in the wind. I hit a good drive down the middle and laid up, rather than risk going for the green in two. I took eight-iron for my second from 180 metres, chipped it close but my birdie putt just slipped past. Jade birdied the last hole, so I’d say my tactic paid off.”
The win also marked Conradie’s second success at Wingate Park in as many months.
“I’ve won three times now since I turned pro, but I’d have to say this one was the most special,” said the delighted champion. “This was probably the best round of golf I’ve ever played in such harsh conditions. The wind was fierce, it was very cold and the greens were rock hard. I never had great results at Wingate Park, although it’s my home course, but after winning here twice now, I guess we can say the course and I are starting to bond.”